Category Archives: Albums of the 80s

Episode 17: Glass Houses

Hi Everybody! Here is the Return of the Return to the ’80s podcast!

We welcome Scott Ryan back to the show. This is the first of our Billy Joel album series. The gang discusses the loss of Tom Petty. Then there is some Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination talk. We have our regular segments, Play This, Not That, featuring the other Piano Man, Remember That Song, and ’80s Trivia. Then we get into our main topic – Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album.


Show Notes

– Welcome back Scott Ryan, author of thirtysomething at thirty: an oral history (available at www.scottryanproductions.com), who last appeared on Episode 15.

News

– R.I.P. Tom Petty
– “Rock and Roll” Hall of Fame nominees (https://www.rockhall.com/class-2018-nominees)

Play This, Not That

Instead of: “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

Play “Kiss The Bride

Or “Healing Hands

Shall We Play a Game?

Remember That Song

Last song:If You Leave” by OMD

New Song:

Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began as a passionate start

If you know the artist and song, you can email us at returnto80s@gmail.com with your answer.

’80s Trivia

Last Question: What was the name of the company Michael and Elliot owned in the first season of thirtysomething?

Answer: The Michael and Elliot Company

New Question: How many Friday the 13th movies were released in the ‘80s.

If you know the answer, you can email us at returnto80s@gmail.com with your answer.

Main topic: Glass Houses

You can click on the album cover to purchase the album or listen to it on Amazon:

1. “You May Be Right

2. “Sometimes a Fantasy

3. “Don’t Ask Me Why

4. “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

5. “All for Leyna

6. “I Don’t Want to Be Alone

7. “Sleeping with the Television On

8. “C’était Toi (You Were the One)

9. “Close to the Borderline

10. “Through the Long Night


Closing

You can contact Scott at the following places:

@30somethingpod
Facebook
www.scottryanproductions.com

@bluerosemag1
bluerosemag.com

In addition to purchasing the book from www.scottryanproductions.com
you can also click on the link below to purchase the book from Amazon:

And you can find Return to the ’80s on iTunes
Also,
returntothe80s.wordpress.com
Find Return to the ’80s on Facebook
Twitter: @returntothe80s
Email: returnto80s@gmail.com

Coming Soon – Podcast Episode 17

Hey everybody! The Return to the ’80s podcast is making it’s um, Return very soon. We will be recording Episode 17. It will be the first in our Billy Joel series, as we discuss and listen to Joel’s classic 1980 album, Glass Houses.

We would love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on Billy Joel? Have you seen him in concert? What are your favorite songs from the Glass Houses album? You can email us at Returnto80s@gmail.com, or leave a comment below, or visit us on Twitter or Facebook.

Albums of the ’80s: Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet

Today, August 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of this classic ’80s album. There are many more readers now than when I first publihed this, so it will be new for a lot of you. So please check it out, and relive this totally awesome time!


Now, let’s Return to 1986. Up to this point, hair bands were not very mainstream. They were too loud for a lot of people, and the people that listened to hair metal were looked on as bad boys or bad girls. But, that music barrier was shattered with the words “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame. Darlin’, you give love a bad name!” Bon Jovi’s 3rd album, Slippery When Wet was released, and “You Give Love a Bad Name” was the first single released off of that album. All of a sudden, people who had been listening to Culture Club, Lionel Richie and Madonna, were now getting into Bon Jovi. And people who were into hard rock thought Bon Jovi was cool too. As a result, Slippery When Wet spent eight weeks at #1 on The Billboard 200, and was in the top 5 for 38 weeks. “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer” reached #1, making Bon Jovi the first hard rock band to ever have two consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 chart hits.

With that, let’s go back and listen to Slippery When Wet:

Let It Rock

Great way to start of an album! It gets you pumped right away.

You Give Love a Bad Name

As I already mentioned, this was the first single released from the album. A lot of people probably bought this album as soon as they heard this song. Here’s an interesting fact: At one point, this song was intended for the group Loverboy (“Working for the Weekend”). Bon Jovi and Sambora started out writing it for them, but liked it so much they kept it for themselves. That decision may have changed music history.

Livin’ on a Prayer

This was the second song released from the album. It was the second consecutive single by Bon Jovi to reach #1. This is one of Bon Jovi’s most popular songs of all time.

Social Disease

This is probably my least favorite song on the album, but it is better than a lot of songs that bands release.

Wanted Dead or Alive

This was the third single released from the album, and reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This helped Slippery When Wet become the first hard rock album ever to have 3 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. One of the most memorable (good) moments in the history of the MTV music awards was when Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora played an acoustic version of this song. This gave MTV the idea to start the channel’s Unplugged series.

Raise Your Hands

Great way to start the second side of the album! It compliments the first song of the the first side, “Let it Rock”. It gets you pumped for side 2.

Without Love

I’d Die for You

Never Say Goodbye

Bon Jovi’s first great ballad. They have had several others since this one. But this started it all. I was in high school, dating a girl when this album was released and this was “our song”. When we went to my Junior Prom, I thought was so cool when I went to the DJ, and requested this song as a dedication. A little while later, you hear the guitar start of the beginning of the song, and I felt all proud as the DJ announced that the song was a special request. But, that pride fizzled out as he spent half the song (or so it seemed) listing all the names of the people that requested the song.

Wild in the Streets

Great rock song, and a great way to end the album. It also makes you look forward to the next album. As it turns out, it gives you good reason to look forward to the next Bon Jovi as New Jersey was not too shabby.

Purple Rain Soundtrack

Purple Rain, The Soundtrack

by Robert Mishou

About a year ago I read Alan Light’s book Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain, and now, in the light of the recent tragic news of Prince’s death, I felt compelled to take a closer look at the music on the soundtrack. Honestly, anyone who reads this book would feel the same way. It has been an absolutely bittersweet night revisiting Prince’s classic album. It has always been one of my favorites and honestly got me through those difficult early high school years. Clearly, this album is nowhere near obscure – I would bet that many of you have it in your collection right now. It is one that I still listen to constantly and has mad an indelible mark on my life.

Clearly there is nothing new I can say about this album’s greatness. There is no secret about the excellent critical reception or the sales figures, so let’s get those out of the way. After being released in June of 1984, the Purple Rain soundtrack sold 13 million copies (1.5 million in its first week of release). It was #1 on Billboard’s album chart for 24 consecutive weeks and spawned five Top 40 singles. The hit songs were “When Doves Cry” #1, “Let’s Go Crazy” #1, “Purple Rain” #2, “I Would Die 4 U” #8, and “Take Me With You” #25. Impressive, but consider the worldwide reception as well: it was a top 10 album in a total of thirteen countries and sold an additional 7 million copies.

Purple Rain won a slew of awards and recognition, a sampling of these include: Rolling Stone’s ranking as the second best album of the ‘80s and #76 of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Time magazine’s ranking of 15th greatest album of all time, and VH1’s ranking of 18th on a similar list. The awards continue, but I think the picture is pretty clear- very few albums of any kind achieved the success of Purple Rain, making it one of the most influential albums, not just of the ‘80s, but of all time.

That is plenty of background information, so let’s get to the songs. Like many of you I am now listening to these songs with an extremely heavy heart. Most of us are aware of the difficulty of finding a way to view Prince’s videos, so I tried to find some version of the songs.

Let’s Go Crazy #1

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life.
Electric word, life, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time, but I’m here to tell you, there’s something else, the afterworld.
A world of never ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night.
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, you know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright.
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left, ask him how much of your mind – cause in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld.
In this life – you’re on your own.

(Believe it or not, I did that completely from memory). Most of us recognize this spoken word opening to this excellent hit song, and I cannot think of a better opening to any album I have heard. The first time I heard this I was floored and I knew that I was in for a unique musical experience. I had never experienced any song like this before. Prince continued with an extremely catchy rock song that ends with a blistering guitar solo that clearly displayed his virtuoso on this now staple of rock music radio and cover bands. This song helped define Prince as an artist who was not afraid to break down boundaries – yes, an African American musician could create rock songs and would not be pigeonholed as an R&B/Dance artist. This song remains one of all time crank-it-up-in-the car songs.

Take Me With U #25

This is an irresistible pop song with a catchy chorus and killer rhythm keyboards. It may be a somewhat simple love song, but it is an earworm that will stay with the listener hours after hearing it. The chorus beautifully captures the song’s sentiment:

I don’t care where we go 
I don’t care what we do 
I don’t care pretty baby 
Just take me with you

This, like many of his song take on new meaning now.

http://www.mojvideo.com/video-prince-and-the-revolution-take-me-with-u/201d38b2f335fbf1ef5e

The Beautiful Ones

On the surface this song seems like a typical song about a guy wanting a girl who cannot decide on what she wants. As Prince frequently does, a subtle, deeper meaning is just under the surface. He slides in these lines: “Paint a perfect picture / Bring to life a vision in one’s mind / The beautiful ones / Always smash the picture / Always every time.” A seemingly simple song about desire now becomes a critical examination of those ‘beautiful’ people who have everything at their disposal, but are unable to make a decision about what they want or need.

Computer Blue

This song begins with a somewhat rare appearance by Revolution musicians Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman making a vocal contribution. Lyrically, this song is a bit sparse; the music is where this one shines. Bass, keyboards, and guitar all combine for a musical exploration of the constant search for a meaningful relationship – and once again, the guitar work is excellent. This song melds perfectly into the next track.

Darling Nikki

I cannot lie- my friends and I loved this song right away because we were teenaged boys who were enthralled by anything even slightly suggestive, although this song is more than slightly suggestive. There was no chance we would ever hear this song on the radio, so we felt compelled to correct this egregious omission on the airwaves. This song has definitely garnered attention for obvious reasons, but there is more to it than ‘dirty’ lyrics. An infectious beat, unique phrasing , and Prince’s instrumentation and vocals are nothing short of excellent. “Thank you for the funky time.”

When Doves Cry #1

This was the song that started it all. I clearly remember that summer- my best friend and I were about to begin our sophomore year of high school, which was the first year in the actual high school building (we had a traditional 7th – 9th grade junior high). We were brash and cocky pretending to not be scared out of our minds. The third member of our best friend group was two years younger, so we were definitely posturing for him. This song became ‘ours’ that summer – the music, the lyrics, the chorus, everything spoke to us. We were so captured by our first listen of this song that we spent the rest of the weekend memorizing it, wrapping our lives around it, and, at the time, not realizing that it was becoming a song that represented us. When the three of us have our annual reunion (this year in June for my oldest son’s wedding) When Doves Cry is played and we strengthen the bonds we forged over thirty years ago.

I Would Die For U #8

This song is another example of a perfect pop song. In the lyrics, Prince begins to explore a theme that will become a constant presence in his later music – spirituality. He uses words like “sinner”, “evil”, and “messiah” to explore the connections between religion and earthy love. Living in Europe in the ‘8os, I never had an opportunity to watch much MTV. When I moved back to the U.S. for college I overdosed on music videos. One video that captured my attention was a live version of this song. I could not believe that energy that Prince gave to this song.

http://uploadsociety.com/video_v130944

Baby I’m a Star

This is yet another example of Prince writing a catchy pop song; this time, though, he seems to be predicting the fame that this album is going to bring him. It was almost as if he realized the greatness of the music he was creating. As it turns out, he was absolutely right.

Purple Rain #2

Oh my, I am not sure I will be able to write about this song in the manner it truly deserves. There is a cover band from Omaha that travels about 150 miles west to the town where I live. They are named Hi Fi Hangover and I make a great effort to see them each of the four or five times per year they perform locally. They play an excellent variety of ‘80s and ‘90s hits, but I go for one reason- during the third set the sweet sounds of Purple Rain emanate from the amps on the small stage. They perform this song with the heartfelt emotion it deserves- and the guitar, oh the guitar! Prince is constantly changing his musical style to avoid being labeled, but this song has to be part of what defines him as a true artist. This is easily one of my all time favorite songs.

This album holds special memories for me. It was the music that my best friends, LeRoyce and Marvin, and I listened to the most. For a few solid months Purple Rain literally played non-stop on our dual cassette player. It was on while we played video games, in our walkman during subway rides, and in the boom box while we shot hoops. Listening to this album dozens of time today, has transported me back to those intensely carefree days of my teenagehood. Many times today I listened to these amazing songs with my eyes closed and I was transported back to those days, singing every word, clapping my hands, and bouncing to every groove – absolute perfection! The music industry considers Purple Rain to be one of the most important albums ever recorded, I consider it to be the most important album of my youth.

The songs on Purple Rain are typical Prince. By typical I mean each song explores a somewhat different style of music and lyrics. As evidenced by songs like “1999” that preceded Purple Rain and “Raspberry Beret” and “Kiss” that follow it, Prince never stopped experimenting with his sound. Purple Rain is an amazing stop on the constantly evolving Prince creative train; this album represents a magnificent example from one of the ‘80s true musical giants.

Albums of the ’80s: The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby And The Range (Side A)

Welcome back to some more Albums of the ’80s. This week, Robert writes about an album which is an interesting choice – The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby And The Range. Bruce Hornsby is one of the few artists that I never warmed up to. His piano style is unique, so I always know it’s one of his songs as soon as I hear it. And I can never listen to the whole song. Let’s see if Robert can win me over. This is a great opportunity to read about Bruce Hornsby on this site, because I may not have written much about him myself. And if you’re like me, maybe you’ll change your mind about him. Or our dislike for Hornsby’s music will just have to be The Way It Is.

Take it away, Robert!


The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby And The Range

by Robert Mishou

This is an album that I have been in love with since I first heard the band in 1986 and I have wanted to review it for a while now. The talent that Bruce Hornsby and the Range brings to ‘80s music is astounding and I do not feel he is recognized nearly enough.

In November of 1986 I talked my parents into letting me go to a few concerts with my buddies. We saw a-ha in July on their Scoundrel Days tour and in November we had the great fortune of seeing Huey Lewis and the News on their Fore! Tour. Opening up for Huey Lewis was a band that had not hit Germany yet, but I did catch their first single, “The Way It Is” on the American radio station a few days before the concert. This band, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, was a true unknown for me and I was far from excited to see them, but I was extremely excited to see Huey Lewis and the News because I owned all of their albums and loved their music. I thought I was going to just have to endure the lackluster ‘opening band’. I have never been so wrong in my music fan life! Yes, Huey Lewis and the News was fantastic, but this unknown opening band absolutely blew me away.

At the time I had no idea that Bruce Hornsby was the former keyboardist for Sheena Easton. I definitely had no idea he was such an excellent songwriter and a peerless pop pianist. I only recognized one song (just a little) and typically this would disappoint me at a live show, but not this time. I loved every song the band played (which was most of that first album) and was completely enraptured with all of the musicianship. I did my best to remember the chorus to every song so I could by the band’s music the next day. Fortunately, I found all of the songs they played that night on one album, their debut disc, The Way It Is. For the next few days I will take a look at all ten songs.

The album itself has reached multi platinum status and, in 1986, #3 on the album charts. Huey Lewis makes an appearance on the album as a harmonica player on track #2 and as a backing vocalist on track #6; he also produced tracks #4 and #8. I suppose it makes sense that Bruce Hornsby and the Range opened up for Lewis on that tour. Bruce Hornsby and the Range ended that year with three AT 40 singles and a Grammy for Best New Artist. Quite a debut!

If you are not too familiar with this album, I am convinced that these next two days will cause you to go back and give a better listen to this band.

On the Western Skyline

I have always really enjoyed good songwriting. In my early years of music listening, that usually meant the sound of the song. As I aged a bit, I placed more of a judging emphasis on the lyrical content, so Sting and Bruce Hornsby became two of my favorite songwriters. This initial track on The Way It Is the first example of the type of high quality songs that Hornsby composed. He sets this song in a prototypical rural setting – which is commonplace for many of his songs. He paints an idyllic picture of small town America, turns out the people there are concerned about the same things as those in big cities – that makes this a universal theme. The setting is clear:

About this time of evening, out by the bay
They turn the road lights on the bridge
A diesel rolls in silhouette, eastbound
Lovers glad the sun has set

And:

The rooftops sag on second street
Bachelor’s quarters, too much fun
Not fun enough
The kite’s still hanging on the wire
Waiting on the wind
Too many dreams and not enough hope

Now that the setting is clear, the meaning of the song surfaces. The speaker wants to be in love, but he has not found the right woman yet. He is hopeful, “I know she’s out there somewhere / On the Western skyline.” Hornsby continues to make observations about the town and there is even some hopeful anticipation because there is a spot where the women wait and wait for the sailors – but it is not to be because, “He’s got the admiral’s daughter in the back / Trying to cross her battle line/ I’m staring into the twilight / Wishing I could be with her tonight.” This song does an excellent job in setting up the tone of the remainder of the album.

Every Little Kiss (#14)

This is the second song that harkens back to Hornsby’s home of Virginia. Each of these first two tracks are set on a bay near some large body of water. And like “On the Western Skyline”, this song has a common, universal theme: missing someone you are in love with. In this song the speaker is working hard and trying to make a living. Unfortunately the woman he is in love with is “a thousand miles away” and he desperately missed her. The thought of her is one of the few things that motivates him to keep going. They are apart for financial reasons as he is being forced to work at a job far away from her most likely because it pays well. The speaker reveals this as he laments, “What I wouldn’t give for only one night / A little relief in sight / Or someday when times weren’t so tight.” The chorus echoes his desperation to be with her:

When the day goes down on the watertown
When the night sinks low all around
That’s when I need you now
Your what I miss
Every little kiss

“Every Little Kiss” is also the first song on the album that highlights Hornsby’s piano skills. His piano introduces the song and establishes the theme for the rest of the song. The piano is not as memorable as it will be in later songs, but it’s strong presence it felt as it weaves it’s way into the rest of the band’s playing with impressive results. This song features distinct drumming by John Molo and a rarish guitar solo by David Mansfield.

Mandolin Rain (#4)

With this third track the listener is now accustomed to and expecting Hornsby’s strong piano – and this song does not disappoint. It has not reached the memorable level that it will later, but it is dang good. At the concert in 1986, the band did not open with this song, it came three or four songs into the set, but this is the one that caught me and was my initial realization that this was a band that I would like for a long time. The lyrics here touch on yet another universal: regret. The speaker in this song was once in love and had a woman that was very special. Now, present tense, she is gone and there are certain things that remind him of her. The final verse says:

The boats steaming in
I watch the side wheel spin
And I think of her when I hear that whistle blow
I can’t change my mind
I knew all the time that she’d go
But that’s a choice I made long ago

We all have regrets – impossible not to – and this song captures the heart wrenching feelings that often accompany this awful feeling. Hornsby is not trying to fool us with a surprise ending; we know how the relationships ends in the first verse:

The song came and went
Like the time that we spent
Hiding out from the rain under the carnival tent
I laughed and she smiled
It would last for a while
You don’t know what you got til you lose it all again

I want to not like the cliche her, but I can’t help it, this song touches me. I love the imagery used in the chorus, the “mandolin rain” and the “banjo wind” – solid writing. I feel very fortunate to not have a relatable regret, but this song has always served as a type of cautionary tale for me – be careful of the decisions you make and try not to set up a life of regretful memories.

The Long Race

The piano takes a back seat in this song; the music here is just and expert blending of bass, drums, keyboard, and guitar. This becomes a somewhat inspirational song extolling the value of never giving up. The speaker is working hard and determined to make the life that he wants for himself and the woman he loves. This determination becomes very clear with, “All of these years I’ve been waiting for you / Through the high tides and the low tides too / If I stop now, how could I ever be with you?” This optimistic attitude will lead him to his ideal situation. He knows it will not be easy, but it will be worth it:

It’s a long, long race
If I try I will surely finish
It’s a long long race
If I try I will surely win it

It is nice to occasionally have a strong, positive attitude in a rock song.


We will flip this album over to Side B on Wednesday.

Albums of the ’80s: Journey – Frontiers

Hi Everybody, Robert returns with a new Albums of the ’80s article. This one is by one of our favorite bands. He also has a special announcement to make about a new frontier that Return to the ’80s is taking.


In the world of ‘80s rock, single words sometimes pack a big punch. That word today is: JOURNEY. There is not much need to introduce this iconic band – I feel confident that most of you know about them and at least one or two or ten songs by them. Return to the ‘80s has devoted several articles and reviews to their classic music and I would like to continue this trend by taking a look at their 1983 album Frontiers.

But first, before I get to looking at this excellent album, an announcement. We have all listened to podcasts about ‘80s movies, music, and other cultural phenomena. Also, after appearing on several podcasts (Beats and Eats, Forgotten Films to name two) as a guest, the creator of this blog has been encouraged, coerced, and inundated with the idea making his own Return to the ‘80s podcast. I am lucky enough to be involved in the creating of this podcast and we are well on our way to recording the first episode which, coincidentally enough will be a look at the band featured in this review. Yes, the first Return to the ‘80s podcast will be about Journey, so keep following here and you will know when this episode is ready and released. I know that we are excited about this project and we hope you will be as well. We look forward to your comments, suggestions, and input as we embark on this adventure. You can email us at returnto80s@gmail.com.

Now on to Frontiers.
Honestly, for the past week I have been preparing for the podcast by completely immersing myself in all things Journey. I have listened to every album, watched every DVD, and read every printed word that I have on this iconic band. Let me tell you that I have enjoyed every second of this. I never need to be reminded about how much I love Journey, and revisiting all of their music has done nothing but strengthen my resolve in believing that Journey is one of the top bands to come out of the ‘70s and enjoy enormous success in the ‘80s, leaving a lasting impression on millions of fans. I was clearly one of those lucky fans.

I bought Frontiers in 1983 at Saturn records, my favorite record store in Frankfurt, Germany. They had everything you could imagine. I was eager to buy Frontiers because I had recently discovered Escape. I missed most of the hoopla of this album in 1981 because I was moving to Germany. I clearly remember seeing an advertisement and article about a Journey video game, but I did not know much about the band. A few weeks later I was perusing records at the local American library (yes, I went to get a book, but also checked out the records) and picked up an album called Escape. It was on that day that my love for Journey started. I went home and immediately put the record on my stereo . . . and fell in love. From the opening notes of “Don’t Stop Believing” to the fade of “Open Arms”, I was hooked on this band. So when Frontiers was released I hopped on the subway, walked into Saturn Records, walked straight to the ‘J’ section, and bought Frontiers.

Right from the first listen I knew that I would not be disappointed. While the melodic sound of Journey is present on the album, it is a bit ‘heavier’ than Escape. Frontiers has a sound that is more akin to “Dead or Alive” from the Escape album – more driving guitars and faster paced songs. This is one of my favorite records to release my inner rock star – I always (last night, in fact) jam and wail on the silent strings of my air guitar. To me, this is the second consecutive album by Journey that has no throw away tracks; every song is solid and make for a fantastic whole. The album itself reached #2 on the charts, reaching six times platinum and had four AT 40 singles. Now let’s take a look at the songs.

Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) (#8)

This is easily my absolute favorite Journey song! I like love songs and I do not mind breakup songs and this one really stands out. It is not a slow moving, pensive ballad where someone is looking for who is to blame. Instead, this song kinda rocks. It is uptempo and has a great rhythm guitar riff that is aggressive and sustained throughout the song. By this, his second with Journey, keyboardist Jonathan Cain has firmly entrenched himself in the band. His distinct keyboard sound opens this song and sets up that killer guitar riff by Neal Schon. The entire band is clearly heard in this song; in addition to the keyboards and guitar, Valory’s bass and Smith’s drums are pounding the whole time. Lyrically, the song depicts the end of a relationship, “Feeling that it’s gone / Can’t change your mind / If we can’t go on / Survive the tide / Love divides.” While this is not a major departure from other break up songs, the reaction to the end is much more unique. He is not mad at her or looking for a way to get back at her. Instead, he still loves her so wishes her luck in moving on and, perhaps, finding someone else: “One day love will find you / Break those chains that bind you.” He also lets her know that if things go poorly, he will be there to help, “If he ever hurts you / True love won’t desert you / You know I still love you / Though we touched and went our separate ways.” I am completely fascinated by his acceptance of the end of the relationship without any bitterness, anger, or desire for revenge. This is a great way to start an album.

Send Her My Love (#23)

This is the first of two solid ballads on this album. The next one (track #4) gets a little more attention and airplay, but this one is just as good. Musically, this song is an atypically quiet one for this album. All of the instruments keep a steady pace and even Schon’s guitar solo is understated, capturing the pain the speaker is in. Interestingly enough, both ballads have a similar theme – being on the road and away from loved ones. This is one aspect of being in a band that I cannot relate to or imagine how I would handle. Clearly, the speaker is away from, and has most likely lost his love. He has not seen her in quite some time and the monotony of the road is getting to him, “The same hotel, the same old room / I’m on the road again / She needed so much more than I could give / We knew our love could not pretend.” Next comes what may be my favorite lyric on the album, “Broken hearts can always mend.” I love how this line captures the resigned desperation that he is forced to accept. As much as I want to deny the truth of this line, I am unable to. Having a broken heart stinks, but we have the ability to recover and survive the unfortunate situation. The climax of this song lies in the bridge, “Calling out her name, I’m dreaming / Reflections of the face I’m seeing / It’s her voice that keeps on haunting me.” Maybe we do move on – maybe we do recover – but maybe we never really forget either.

Chain Reaction

Sometimes love can make us do some silly things and sometimes we let love change who we are. As this song depicts, those changes are not always positives. The first thing that jumps out of this song is the driving rhythm guitar. Schon is at the top of his game here, creating a driving sound with small solos worked in throughout the song. This song features a keyboard solo of sorts and ends with a classic Schon solo. I love the black and white concept used in the video because it matches the song’s theme perfectly. The song is about a man who has changed who he is to please a woman – he has flipped from black to white. I see this song being written by a friend who sees these changes and does not understand why they are happening; he just wants the old friend back the way he was. This becomes evident right away, “I bet you she’s the one / Who helped you come undone” and “I bet you she’d like to say / She’s changed you in every way.” I think the chorus does an excellent job in capturing the mood and meaning of the song, “Chain reaction, shades of passion / We surrender, lose control / Chain reaction, strange attraction / Love’s a viper, steals your soul.” Great imagery for a rocking song.

After the Fall (#23)

Up next is a song about regret. As we have come to expect from Journey, there is a smooth blend of all band members’ instruments and a great low key solo from Schon to close the song. The regret lies in not saying what should have been said and accepting that it is now too late. The first line sets up the situation with, “Now love is gone / I can’t go on, now love is gone.” He is forced to do a little self evaluation in order to discover why it is over. There are many things that he “should have told her” like: “You meant more to me than I let you see” and “. . . valentines never sent”. He is now left only with memories and an answer to the question, “What’s left after the fall?” The painful answer that he now has to accept is “No, not much.”

Faithfully (#12)

Here is that second outstanding ballad that has evolved to become a rival to “Open Arms” on the radio and in Journey’s live shows. It is a perfect rock ballad: strong piano that carries the song, powerful bass and drums, and a guitar that sears through soul of the listener. I am not sure if anyone has a better voice for a rock ballad than Steve Perry and this song provides even more evidence to support that claim. Like track #2, Jonathan Cain has written a song about the difficulties of being on the road and touring constantly. The speaker is on the road again and missing his woman who has been left at home again. The song is full of phrases that show this; he “sends his love along the wire”, but he never seems to be enough. He is holding on to her because “right down the line it’s been you and me”. We get the strong sense that this couple will survive the difficult times because the passion is clear when they are reunited, “And being apart ain’t easy on this love affair / Two strangers learn to fall in love again / I get the joy of rediscovering you.” Of course, ultimately because, “Oh girl, you stand by me / I’m forever yours, faithfully.” I know all of you readers have, at one time or another, had a sincere slow dance with someone who love while this song was playing. I have, and still do.

Edge of the Blade

Up next is a bitter song that reminds us that not all breakups end nicely. This is an aggressive song that reveals the acrimonious nature of the split. I do not think the speaker to soo happy about her approach, it seems quite spiteful, “I’ve heard rumors all around / Contracts and lawyers, champagne downtown.” He just wants to be done with it and her, but he does leave her with one thing to think about, “Better see if you’re holding the wrong edge of the blade / If it’s sharp, if it cuts / Enjoy yourself.” The lyrics in this song a sharp and short because the true power lies in the music. Everything – the bass, the drums, the keyboards, and, of course, the guitar is powerful and being played with intensity. This is one of the songs that characterizes this album as having a harder rock edge than some of Journey’s other work – I love it!

Troubled Child

This song replaced “Only the Young” during the final cuts for Frontiers; this song would later appear on the soundtrack to Vision Quest as well as Greatest Hits. I must say that I have mixed feelings about this swap. I like this song, but I am not sure how it can be swapped with the original idea of using “Only the Young.” That is a much stronger song and with (see next track), this album may have surpassed Escape in overall quality. Despite this, “Troubled Child” is a solid song with Schon’s typical great guitar work in a song that builds nicely and is completely fits Frontiers. The chorus captures the tone and sentiment of the song: “War with yourself / Makes you feel better / Caught behind the lines / Troubled child.” Lyrically, this is not a typical Journey song, but it definitely sounds like them and deserves a spot on this album. Quick note for this and the next track: a later remastered version of Frontiers was released and included the two tracks that were replaced as well as “Only Solutions” and “Liberty” (this version can be purchased on iTunes).

Back Talk

This song replaced “Ask the Lonely” during the final cuts for Frontiers; this song would later appear on the soundtrack to Two of a Kind as well as Greatest Hits 1. I understand including this song a bit better than the previous track. I love the opening drums by Steve Smith – the sound sets up a rocking song. As soon as you get into the groove of the drums, Schon’s guitar kicks in and the listener is ready for the ride. The lyrics are all clipped lines that are as aggressive as the music. It is a simple song that does not really fit with other Journey lyrics so it has a fresh feel to it. This is an enjoyable rocker with perhaps the best solo on the album.

Frontiers

For this song Journey jumps on the burgeoning technology bandwagon and gives the approval for looking to the future for positive advancements. Just looking for technological changes is a bit too narrow. They are making a statement here that we all need to look ahead and strive for the best of what the future has to offer. We, in essence, make our own futures and we cannot be afraid to take the words from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses” to heart: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” This song fits the theme in the album’s title.

Rubicon

Frontiers ends, as it should, on a rocking note. I love Journey’s album Escape, but if I was to be a bit critical, I do not like ending that album with “Open Arms”. Hold on hold on – I love the song, I just do not like ending such a great album on a soft, subtle note – I want it to end with a BANG! and “Rubicon” does that for Frontiers. This song does rock with Schon’s guitar getting yet another song off to a great start. ‘Rubicon’ is the name of the small river in Italy that Julius Caesar was said to have crossed as he was fighting to be the emperor of Rome. Today the expression ‘to cross the Rubicon’ means to fully commit to something and pass the point of no return. I like the expression and the way that Journey uses it. They typically have one or two inspirational songs on an album and this one is in the same vein as “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Be Good To Yourself”, and “To Be Alive Again”. They are urging us to take a chance and move forward to make the life that we want, “Make your move across the Rubicon / Future’s knocking at your door / Take your time and choose the road you want / Opportunity is yours.” I can think of no better way to end an album- rock out and inspire. That is ending with a BANG!

There you have it, Journey’s classic seventh album Frontiers. Be sure you look at for and listen to the Return to the ‘80s podcast coming at you soon.

Albums of the ’80s: When Seconds Count by Survivor

Today, not only do we get a great album review from Robert, but we also get a love story. Robert Returns to a time when he and his now-wife, Diana, fell in love. In honor of Robert and Diana’s 25th wedding anniversary today, let’s enjoy his wonderful story, and listen to some great music! Happy Anniversary Robert and Diana!!!

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When Seconds Count – So Many Seconds

If you are reading this, it is time to be honest. Most of us regular readers of nostalgia websites and blogs do so for one BIG reason: We miss our youth and look for ways to recapture those good old days that will always be deeply etched in our minds and, more importantly perhaps, our hearts. We all have a special song, album, commercial, TV show, or movie that has made an indelible imprint on our lives. The reasons are as limitless as the choices. These “artifacts” remind of of both good and bad times and how we got through those crazy, and sometimes brutal, junior high and high school days. If you are still reading this, I know you agree and truly understand the importance of these days and that you will never forget them.

IMG_0273We do all have a special something that we carry with us and will never let go of, but that something differs for all of us. Ever since I bought REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity, I have been absolutely hooked on music. Lucky for me, the ‘80s were by far the best time to be a music fan. My music collection is big and very important to me; I literally own over five thousand songs from the ‘80s in one format or another. Even with all of this music there a few albums that I treasure as particularly important to me. I believe that many music fans out there are able to connect a certain song or album to a life changing event or a life changing person. I will even venture to say that all of you reading this now can name one or two songs or albums that have had a significant impact on you and who you are today. I am no different – here in my story.

I am presently a high school English teacher and love it! Every year students will ask me what I was like when I was younger. I am honest with them and tell them that I was a very quiet and shy boy who said very little in school or out. I had a few very good friends who, despite being many miles apart today, I am still in nearly daily contact with, but I was nowhere near outgoing. They never believe me – things have changed (I do not think you can be quiet and be an effective English teacher at the same time). Needless to say I did not exactly have a line girls waiting to go out with me. Other than a few very temporary female acquaintances, I typically hung out with my friends, played Atari or Commodore 64 games, read books, and listened to music. In October of my senior year that came to a screeching halt. I went to junior high and high school in Frankfurt, Germany and, due to noise ordinances, our football games were played on Saturday afternoons. Our school typically supplied buses to away games since the driving age was 18 and only about 8 people in my senior class drove. On one crisp October 4th Saturday, I took the subway to school to meet my friends and travel on one of these buses for a game against Manheim – a bus ride of a little more than an hour.

IMG_0276A mistake was made; only two buses showed up – we had enough people for three buses! So we all crammed on the two buses, sitting three to a seat (this would probably incur a lawsuit today). My friends and I had to separate and I was forced to sit with girls from the dance team! How was I ever going to survive this? Well, I did more than survive – I fell in love. I was forced to sit with a girl I did not really know, but kind of admired when I saw her in the halls. Her name was Diana and she had gorgeous red ‘80s hair. I was as scared as I had ever been. There was no way I could manage to come out of a longish bus ride next to this girl and look anything resembling cool. I was quiet – of course – but we slowly started to talk to each other. We ended up sitting together at the game and the ride back to school. The entire time I knew I wanted to ask her out, but could not imagine myself actually doing so. When we got back to the school I walked her to the phone booth (how strange does that sound?) so she could call for a ride. I steeled myself as much as I possibly could and asked her for her phone number. To my surprise, she gave it to me! I told my friends and they insisted that I call her the next day.
IMG_0275 2Finally, the purpose of this article. I did call her the next day and asked her out. Once again she said yes! – we were set for that next Friday. She had dance team practice on Friday so I needed to kill some time. I went to one of my favorite places – the audio store that sold tapes and records. I saw that one of my favorite bands, Survivor, had just release a new album, When Seconds Count. I immediately grabbed the cassette and paid for it. This was the first album that I bought after I met the girl who would become my wife. I have always felt that Survivor was one of the most underrated bands in ‘80s rock. IMG_0277Sure, everyone knows “Eye of the Tiger” and “Burning Heart”, but how many have listened to an entire Survivor album? If you need some proof of Survivor’s excellence, check out the Return to the ‘80s review of Vital Signs. I own all of Survivor’s albums – even the Japanese import Reach. I love all of their songs and mourned the death of Jimi Jamison by listening to nothing but Survivor and his solo albums for two solid weeks. When Seconds Count is my favorite Survivor album, mostly due to the girl I was falling in love with when I first listened to it.


The album itself was a follow up to the excellent Vital Signs. Survivor had successfully replaced their lead singer Dave Bickler with Jimi Jamison and was enjoying some serious chart success. When Seconds Count is certified gold and had three Top 100 hits with “Is This Love” reaching #9.

How Much Love (#51)

The album begins with an excellent song that exemplifies the Survivor sound. Lyrically, it is a song that has the speaker wondering what to do about a woman he likes. Does she want him to pursue her? He clearly wants to but is not sure if she is willing. Guitarist Sullivan has a reputation for being a master of the rhythm guitar (see “Eye of the Tiger” or “Burning Heart”) – I agree, he is great. Unfortunately, his guitar solos are too often overlooked. I never fully appreciated this until I saw Survivor in concert when I was in college; after that I started paying closer attention to those solos. This song has his typical smooth solo that Sullivan consistently plays. This song was the perfect match for how I was feeling when I first met Diana. I was young and had zero experience with girls; I had no idea what to do. Do I ask her out again? And if she says yes, what then? Hold hands? Kiss after the date? I was truly a wreck, but she helped me through it like, as I was soon to learn, she always does.

Keep It Right Here

The second track picks up right where the first left off. Listen for the bass note after the third line – simple, but impossible not to pluck your air guitar. This song has the typical catchy Survivor chorus. The speaker here is realizing that the relationship he is in is progressing in a positive direction that he really likes. There are a few lines that still jump out at me today, “There will be nights, some restless nights / When you’re alone, your thought start to wander / Wondering if it’s right, you search the night.” As I said earlier, I had zero relationship experience – Diana had a little more than I did. Soon after we started dating she went to visit another boy – wait – the arrangements were made before we went. I pretended like it didn’t bother me and took her to the train station. Inside my mind I was sure that this was the end – one month – a great month – but that was it. As fate would have it, she returned (I nervously picked her up from the same train station) and she told me that she felt nothing for that other guy and she wanted to keep dating me. My first win! We clicked right away and I felt early on that this could be something that would last for a while.

Is This Love (#9)

What a great song and the biggest hit from this album. This song could easily have been on the Vital Signs album – it is pure Survivor. It starts with Petrick’s signature keyboards and Sullivan’s rhythm guitar – do not miss another nice solo, though. There are so many great lines that remind me of what I was feeling early in our relationship. Lines like “I’d like to know that for once in my life I’m sure of what tomorrow may bring” and “I need to prove to myself that this is more than a crush / Can you convince me it’s not just a physical rush?” absolutely captured exactly what I was feeling. Again, Diana and I clicked right away, but I was worried that it would be a fleeting thing. This was my first real girlfriend and I had just turned seventeen; I was worried that I was being swept by her beauty and charm and not thinking straight (it was easy to do). I did not want this is be temporary, but did not want to tell her that after just a few months.

Man Against the World (#86)

The first song on this album that is not a true love song. I would put it in the category of a Journey type of inspirational song, like “Be Good to Yourself.” My favorite thing about this song it how it builds to a climax. It begins with piano and vocals, then rises and rises, adding powerful guitars. It then backs off and gives the listener time to contemplate the emotions in the song. The Jamison sings, “I shout, can a single voice carry? / Will I find sanctuary within your arms? / Someday when the answer‘s clearer / Someday when I even the score / You’ll reach and find me near you, right beside you, forevermore.” When I was a sophomore in high school I decided that I wanted to be an English teacher. As a senior, I still wanted to, but I was beginning to feel that I wanted Diana to be with me. As decision time came upon us, we both decided to attend college in Nebraska – man, am I glad we decided to that!

Rebel Son

Any Survivor fan would not want you to forget that, despite some great ballads, this band can really rock – this song is an example of that. It starts slow, giving the impression that it will be another ballad. Once the guitar kicks in, it does not look back. It reminds me a bit of “First Night” from Vital Signs, but it is smoother and lyrically stronger. The singer is speaking directly to a young man, urging him not to give up, to have the confidence to believe in himself and become who he wants to be. Oh yeah, best solo on the album so far. Looking back, this song has no real connection to our relationship. It just reinforced my determination to be what I wanted to be and not worry about what others thought.

Oceans

I really like this song. In fact, this one and the next are my two favorites on this album. It is one of the few songs on this album that uses imagery to capture an emotion. It is not complicated. “If only we could go back to square one / If finally we could pinpoint where we lost touch / I’d stand alone reaching out my hand to you / Oceans between us.” Sometimes simple is the most effective way to get an idea across. The speaker does not want to lose the relationship that the two of them have built, but does not know where things went wrong. The lyrics continue the water/ocean imagery throughout the song. At the time, this song scared me. I was young and in love for the first time and I did not want it to end. Over the years, I have used this song as a reminder to not let oceans come between Diana and me. Not every day is perfect, but for twenty nine years we have done a really good job in preventing this from happening.

When Seconds Count

My second of two favorites songs on this album is coming at you right away. Even at the youngish age when I met Diana and we started dating, this song freaked me out. We have all heard about or known couples who have lost touch as the relationship wore on. These lyrics have always chilled me a bit: “Special moments taken for granted, tenderness that found no reward / Funny how you’d speak of forever only to wind up restless and bored / Can sweethearts so suddenly stranger recapture in a moment the fire?” I promised myself to do my best to never let this happen to us. Realistically, over 25 years of marriage there will be times when things get somewhat predictable and boredom sets in, but overall we have done a really good job in enjoying each other’s company and not letting things get too predictable. I cannot imagine myself with anyone else; most days I feel as if we are still young and in a new, exciting relationship. This song has yet another really good guitar solo that ties the whole song together.

Backstreet Love Affair

This is a decent song, but my least favorite one on this album. It starts with a solid keyboard that sets up the melody. Sullivan’s rhythm guitars are excellent and completely drive this song. Lyrically, the song is about the deep passions that exists between two people despite others not approving of the relationship. Fortunately, Diana and I never really had this problem. Her father was the typically suspicious at times father- she was the only girl in the extended family and he wanted to protect her – understandable. I made it a point to be on my best behavior when he was around, but overall, we both got along with the other’s families.

In Good Faith

This great ballad made it on every mix tape that I ever made for Diana. There is nothing wrong with this love song; in fact, I like it better than the “The Search is Over”, a major hit from Vital Signs. I have always been one to not fully express my feelings- I still am – so I had a tendency to do so through songs. This song captured how I was feeling about Diana perfectly – “I never needed anyone this way / Never found the right words to say until today.” Oh yes, I know it is corny, but hey, I was 17, what do you expect? Even listening to this song right now I remember how it, and she, made me feel then. She still does today and the song still matches our relationship.

Can’t Let You Go

Musically, this is my favorite track. Sullivan’s guitars are perfect. It has a driving rhythm guitar and the best solo on the album – at the 2 minute 40 second mark, just sit back and enjoy how expertly the solo is laid on top of the rhythm guitar – beautiful. Yes, I was that lovesick teenaged boy who stayed up all night thinking about this beautiful girl who was now actually talking to me. Seriously, I couldn’t sleep most nights: “Two eyes that haunt me when I turn out the light / Two lips that taunt me from the darkness each night / I try and hide my heart to keep my distance in the dark / What makes me fall apart and call out your name?” Early on, I was completely smitten – and it has not changed yet. 29 years later, Diana is still the most beautiful woman I have ever met and I cannot imagine a single day without her.


My love for this album has origins in two places. First, it is Survivor and I love them. They are a perfect ‘80s rock band with a completely underrated and underappreciated guitar and keyboard combination of Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik. I place the powerful lead vocals of Jimi Jamison right next to the great Steve Perry. This band’s songs are solid – well written and musically very sound. When I was very much into making mix tapes for friends, I always included a few songs from Survivor – and they always liked them.

With When Seconds Count, I have always associated every song with Diana – I still do. Not every song is completely relatable, but, to me, this album is the most important one I ever purchased. I listen to it frequently in all sorts of moods and it never fails to take me back to those wonderful days of new found love. Diana has always been there for me since that chilly October Saturday. She is my life. She is my love. She is my best friend. Today, we are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary – 29 years together. Diana, I love you – forever and always.

 

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Albums of the ’80s: REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity

Hi Everybody! Robert is back this week with a new awesome album review. I loved REO Speedwagon ever since I got their Wheels Are Turnin’ album (actually it was a cassette). Well, little did I know that four years earlier, this great band had released another classic album – Hi Infidelity. I never owned that album. But, I did know several of songs from their greatest hits album. Some of the songs from this album are new to me. So, I love this article. I know you will too.

Hi Infidelity: REO Speedwagon’s Well Deserved Hit

The year was 1981 and I was in the sixth grade. My Army sergeant father had just informed me that we were leaving Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and moving to Frankfurt, Germany. I was nervous, but not completely upset about this announcement – actually, I was a bit excited. I would be able to visit and get to know my Dutch grandparents who would only be three hours away and not an ocean away. I was sad to leave my friends, but I knew I would make new ones in Germany – all military kids are told this through the multiple relocations they we are forced to endure. Now, this does not mean I didn’t take advantage of the situation. I had recently gotten into music – radio only. I listened to it every night (sneaking under the covers) and was starting to recognize and enjoy a few artists.

One of these was a band by the name of REO Speedwagon and a song called “Keep On Loving You”. I had never heard a song that sounded quite like that- a love song that, well, rocked. I approached my father, played the “I can’t believe we are moving again” card and asked for some money to buy REO’s album. This was a moment that changed my life forever. Hi Infidelity was the first album I ever bought; I give it credit for being the beginning of my love affair with ‘80s music. When I got home and listened to it for the first time, honestly, I never looked back. Music was now an integral part of my existence. Since then I have continued to buy albums, attend concerts, and listen to some type of rock everyday- but REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity will always be held in my heart as the first.

I did not know it at the time, but I soon learned that Hi Infidelity was REO’s ninth album. I was young and had very little experience or knowledge in the area rock music, but I knew that I liked what I heard and needed more of it. REO formed in the late 1960s in Champaign, Illinois and recorded their first album with lead singer Terry Luttrell in 1971. Kevin Cronin, the present lead singer, joined the band in 1972 for the band’s second album. Cronin left after recording his second album with REO, but the album was released with Mike Murphy on vocals. Fortunately, Cronin rejoined in 1976 to become the permanent vocalist. Hi Infidelity was released in November of 1980. Until this time, some of REO’s songs received frequent airplay, but they had yet to achieve major success. Songs like “Keep Pushing“, “Roll with the Changes“, “Time for Me to Fly“, and “Back on the Road Again” made the band a popular live performance band, but the success that comes with a hit single and album still eluded them – until this album.

All told, Hi Infidelity sold ten million copies and spent fifteen weeks at the top of Billboard’s album chart. The album spawned four top twenty-five hits. This album was a major commercial success, but there was one thing that was more important than the number of copies sold or the countless times the singles were played on the radio – this album represented over a decade of hard work and dedication to the idea that a relentless work ethic will pay off – even in the rock world. This album features the most consistent members of REO Speedwagon: Kevin Cronin on vocals, Gary Richrath and guitars, Bruce Hall on the bass, Neal Doughty on keyboards, and Alan Gratzer on drums. Today, these songs on Hi Infidelity are classics that are played both on classic rock stations and by REO themselves in concert. There is no need to delay- sit back and enjoy the sweet sounds of one of the most dedicated, hard working bands in rock who helped define and change the perception of popular rock and roll in the ‘80s.

Don’t Let Him Go #25

Gratzer’s drums set up this song which is a perfect opening track to an album. It is upbeat and features solos by both Richrath’s guitar and Doughty’s keyboards – a classic REO combination. This song typically opened REO shows in the ‘80s. It has a perfect blend of all the instruments, great vocals by Cronin, and a catchy chorus, “Don’t let him go / Just give him a chance to grow / Take it easy, take it slow / And don’t let him go.” This song does an excellent job in preparing the listener for what is to come.

Keep On Loving You #1

There is no way to adequately state the sheer brilliance or importance of this song. This song captured hundreds of thousands music fans and got them hooked on REO’s music. Many music critics give this song credit as an early (some say first) rock ballad. There may be other songs that can lay claim to creating this type of ballad, but in the ‘80s, this is clearly an early, shining example. The song opens with the classic ballad piano and slowly builds through the power chords of the rhythm guitar to Richrath’s fantastic solo – oh, how many times I rocked to this solo on my air guitar (wait, I still do). This song is short, clocking in at 3:22, but it packs a powerful punch. Just consider how many great rock ballads follow this amazing song. All of the power ballads by all of those hair bands owe REO for introducing this genre to the rock world of the ‘80s. When I recently saw REO in concert, Cronin introduced this song as the one that changed everything. It clearly did change things for REO, but also changed things for many of their fans.

Follow My Heart

There is not a song on Hi Infidelity that I do not like. This song is the one that made me really appreciate Richrath’s guitar work. From the opening note through the rhythm he lays down and the solo he wails on, Richrath truly shows his expertise. This is a solid song that fits the overall feel and quality of the album. Oh, and it has two guitar solos, or maybe three!

In Your Letter #20

While I like this song now, it took a while to grow on me. As a young listener I was enthralled with Hi Infidelity’s rocking guitar work- this song shows a different side of the band. It does not feature big guitar chords or soaring solos, rather the piano/keyboards take center stage. The catchy chorus is perfectly framed by Doughty’s piano work and includes both a piano and a Hammond B-3 organ solo. Lyrically, the song is one of being dumped through the dreaded letter, “You could have left him only / For an evening let him be lonely / But you hid behind your poison pen and his pride.”

Take It on the Run #5

It is extremely difficult for me to choose my favorite REO song, but this one is a strong contender. The opening lines are some of the most memorable ones from the early ‘80s (everybody sing), “Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you’ve been messing around.” The song is about the harm that rumors can cause and the unwillingness to believe them when they concern someone we are in love with. This song is as close to perfect as a rock song can get. I especially love Richrath’s solo, particularly the length of it. While the solo in “Keep on Loving You” is great, I feel it is a bit short and fits a mold. This one lasts longer and builds perfectly- and do not miss Bruce Hall’s bass line that accompanies it.

Tough Guys

You know this one – the one that starts with Spanky and Alfalfa from The Little Rascals. And then the guitars kick in- yeah, that one. This is a great, simple, and catchy rock song. I think it is also the only studio song by REO that has a curse word in it – but it is funny and it does rhyme. The lyrics capture the feeling all guys have had when they are overjoyed that the girl chose them, even though the other guys could clearly pound them into the dust.

Out of Season

For absolutely no reason, I rediscovered this song the summer before I went to college. I was packing all of my records and cassettes away for storage as my family moved back to the United States. I was not going to be able to take my music with me until Christmas break because it would not arrive before I left for school (it was an incredibly long four months!). I wanted to make some temporary copies of my albums and listen to them one more time before we parted. This song really stood out to me; it did a great job in capturing the feelings of being let go by someone you love and not really understanding the reason why. The imagery is simple and powerful.

Shakin’ It Loose

This is a really fun song. I have seen REO perform this song several times in concert, and even though it is not one of their big hits, it always gets the crowd rocking and involved in the show. It is impossible not to sing along with and pump your fist to the chorus.

Someone Tonight

This song features lead vocals by bass player Bruce Hall. He makes several appearances as a vocalist on a few different REO albums, the most famous being the song “Back on the Road Again” from the Nine Lives album. Hall has a solid rock voice and he carries this song along with Richrath’s guitar work. Check out this bonus live video of REO performing Hall’s classic:

I Wish You Were There

I have always felt that this song could have been a single. It combines the talents of all the REO members: piano, bass, guitar and Cronin’s best vocals on the album.

Hi Infidelity is an excellent album that foreshadows what is to come in ‘80s rock. I never tire of listening to it – and when I do I am immediately transported to those days of my youth when music started to matter to me. I owe REO Speedwagon an enormous debt of gratitude. They opened my ears to rock and roll and gave me the fire of listening to music that still burns today. Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see REO live. It was my tenth time attending one of their shows and it was as good as the first. The band was full of energy and rocked the entire crowd for two hours. As expected, they performed several songs from Hi Infidelity and I loved them as if it were the first time I heard them. This album maintains a special, important place on my shelf and in my rock n’ roll heart.

 

Albums of the ’80s: Night Ranger – Midnight Madness

Hi Everybody, Robert is back to share another album with us. While Dawn Patrol, Night Ranger’s 1982 debut album, is outstanding, Midnight Madness is the band’s big breakthrough album. Most children of the ’80s know about 3 or 4 songs from this album. But, this album is great from top to bottom. As with our other albums and Top 40 Countdowns, you can click on the song title to hear the song and/or watch the video.
And after reading this, if you want to download the album, you can go ahead and buy it at Amazon.
OK Robert, now I need a touch, I need a touch of madness…

Night Ranger – Midnight Madness

 There are so many great rock albums that came out of the ‘80s that it  is difficult to choose which are my favorites. Many of these albums  have been reviewed right here on Return to the ‘80s, but there are  many others that deserve attention. I have recently been absorbed in my revisiting the supergroup Damn Yankees and learning the songs from the new supergroup Revolution Saints – and I realized that both of these bands have a member in common: bass player and vocalist Jack Blades. Now I have it. I know what band I have to write about – one of my all time favorites – Night Ranger. I no longer even try to break the 5 way tie I have for favorite band. The are (in no order because I just can’t) REO Speedwagon, Bon Jovi, Journey, Survivor, and Night Ranger.

Night Ranger has plenty of albums to choose from, but I am going to go with their breakthrough classic Midnight Madness.

Midnight Madness, released in 1983, is Night Ranger’s second studio album following their debut effort Dawn Patrol. This album still ranks as their most successful one selling over 1 million copies and peaking at #15 on Billboard’s album charts. This album features Night Ranger’s signature hard rocking style- great guitar work with irresistible hooks and choruses.

Recently, the band’s line up has undergone a few changes, but Midnight Madness features the original line up: Jack Blades on bass and vocals, Kelly Keagy on drums and vocals, Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson on guitars (yes, two guitarists – and they are amazing), and Alan Fitzgerald on keyboards. Enough background- let’s get to the fantastic rock music!

(You Can Still) Rock in America

From the opening guitar licks this song captures what it is like to be young, wild, and free – and a teenager growing up with the rock n’ roll blasting. The lyrics feature two such teens- one male and one female – each doing whatever it takes to experience the thrill of a live show:

Little sister makes a move for the door

The door squeaks she’s on the second floor

Her daddy wakes, ‘Is everything OK?’

Not a sound as she makes her getaway

Little brother’s got it ready to roll

Tires burning as they head for the show

Light it up and turn the music up loud

And rock it, rock it, rock it

Add to this fantastic dueling guitar solos and you have the perfect rock anthem. The video is from a live performance of this song. This makes is possible to hear how truly powerful this band is. Quick side note: the last time I saw Night Ranger, they opened with this song and oh my!!!

 

Rumours in the Air

Cool opening keyboards (actually throughout the song) and a topic that many of us are familiar with – love gone bad. Relationships do not always end with the fairy tale ‘together forever’, sometimes things end poorly – and sometimes they end so poorly that the one who is left behind feels it is necessary to make up stories about the other person. This song tells that story, “Rumors in the air like a thief in the night / Taking more than their share / Taking more than their right.” Great song with another solid guitar solo (yes, this is going to get repetitive).

Why Does Love Have to Change

I absolutely love the intro to this song- the guitar riff grabs the listener right away. This song features the unfortunate situation of a love that may have lasted too long, “Through the eyes things look different than before / Spark and the flame it will never be the same.” . . . and – wait for it – another great solo.

Sister Christian

This is Night Ranger’s biggest hit and by far their most famous song – and what is not to like about it? It is a near perfect rock ballad that drummer/lead vocalist Kelly Keagy wrote about his younger sister who was getting ready to strike out on her own. I love how the video begins with the ticking clock – time stands still for no one- which segues into the piano. The song itself begins with a quiet, pensive tone before Keagy’s drums kick in and the well known chorus arrives: (all sing along) “Your motoring, what’s your price for flight / In finding Mister Right / You’ll be alright tonight.” As good as Gillis’s solo is in this song, it pales by comparison to some of his other guitar work. As much as I love all of the piano and guitars, my favorite part of this song is how the drums take center stage; they add an intensely dramatic feel to the song and the lyrical pleading that is taking place: please slow down and do not try to grow up too fast.

Touch of Madness

This song opens with a jack-in-the-box playing and slowing down THEN the guitars kick in and imitate the jingle. Great opening to an extremely catchy song in which the rhythm guitars establish a great groove. Oh, and yes, another slick dual guitar solo.

Passion Play

This song has my favorite opening lyrics, “In a backstreet bar on the south side of town / Where the music never stops and the sun never hangs around.” Great song with yet another excellent guitar solo. I know I have mentioned the solos a few times, but each one adds so much to the song and never becomes redundant or predictable.

 

When You Close Your Eyes

It is impossible to hear the opening guitar and be able to turn this song off. This song features the power of having two excellent vocalists as Blades and Keagy take turns asking that painfully irresistible question: after a breakup, does that girl still have me on her mind? This is the first Night Ranger song that really grabbed my attention. I loved Sister Christian, but this song has a bit more to it. Despite it’s upbeat tempo, the pain in the lyrics is obvious, “No good for an old memory to mean so much today.” What a great line!

Check out the video- does the actress look familiar? (you need to watch the video for Sister Christian, too)

Chippin’ Away

This song opens with a hammer sound clanging it’s way into a hand clapping drum beat, then, you guessed it, the guitars show up. Jack Blades shines on this song as a vocalist; his phrasing is excellent and he brings a clear energy to his performance. Yes, there is a guitar solo here. Yes, it rocks.

 

Let Him Run

The video is another live version- Jeff Watson’s acoustic guitar is too good not to include it. If you like unplugged versions of songs, check out the live album 24 Strings and a Drummer. This song is a fine example of an acoustic driven ballad. It does not quite have the strength of a Sister Christian, but brings the album to a great close, leaving the listener wanting just a bit more.


While achieving plenty of success, Night Ranger has never been on the top of the rock heap. Today, most of their songs that are played on the radio (the most recognizable ones) come from this album. Night Ranger’s music makes (audio) appearances in Sixteen Candles, Rock of Ages, Rock Band 3, and Guitar Hero. I own all of their albums including the most recent High Road released in 2014. They have no bad songs and rock as much as any band that I regularly listen to. If you have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing Night Ranger’s great sound, now it is the time. Start with Midnight Madness, but do yourself a favor and do not stop – keep going! I promise you will find dozens of songs that will make you sing out loud and believe that yes, you can still rock in America.

Albums of the ’80s: Bon Jovi – New Jersey

Hi Everybody!!! Today, Robert is back with another article for us. This one covers one of my favorite albums of all-time – Bon Jovi’s New Jersey. You can also check out Robert’s last article about Bad English if you haven’t caught that one yet. Now let’s kick back and enjoy this perfect album. Take it away, Robert. 2, 3, 4!!!!

Bon Jovi: A Masterpiece Follows up a Masterpiece

September 1988: I was just starting my sophomore year of college. I was in the process of buying CDs to replace my records and cassettes, and I had a very specific hierarchy in this process – my favorites had to come first. This also meant that any new music released by any of these artist would immediately be purchased in the CD format. My first CD was Survivor’s Too Hot To Sleep. I was enjoying the process and worked my way to one of my favorites, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (Return to the ‘80s review of this album). As fate would have it, I just read that Bon Jovi was set to release a new album! I waited with as much patience as I could muster and then stood in line at my local CD store on that September morning to get a copy of New Jersey as soon as I could – and I was not disappointed.

New Jersey skyrocketed to the well deserved place as my favorite Bon Jovi album. I played it constantly driving my roommate and girlfriend crazy – but I did not care. Clearly, I was not the only one who thought this way. The album sold over 7 million copies and had 5 Top 10 hits (2 of those #1). New Jersey is one of the few albums in my collection that has no bad songs. There is not one track on this album that I would ever skip. So, let’s get to those great songs.

Lay Your Hands On Me

Is there a better opening to an album? Tico Torres on the drums – the band shouting “HEY”, Richie Sambora adding some licks on the guitar – David Bryan’s keyboards – a full 1 minute and 19 seconds of suspense building. And then Jon Bon Jovi says, “They say to really free your body, you’ve got to free your mind. So come on, check this out.” Here is an invitation to sit back, relax, and enjoy the musical ride that Bon Jovi is about to take the listener on. The song explodes with an intense rhythm guitar and a chorus that begs the audience to sing along.

Bad Medicine

This song is a clear (and successful) attempt by Bon Jovi to capture the feel of a live show in a recording studio without using crowd noises or other effects. The rapid pace of the verses combined with a shout-at-the-top-of your-lungs chorus makes this song irresistible. Just when you think the song is over, Jon Bon Jovi keeps it going with, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on. One more time, with feeling.” – giving it that concert feel. Every time I attend a Bon Jovi concert, I eagerly await this song. The official video for this song features fans onstage with 16mm camera as they film ‘their’ video.

Born to be My Baby

What a breath of fresh air – an excellent love song that absolutely rocks.This song is a raw and honest look at a couple who does not have much, but they have each other. Here is yet another example of Bon Jovi’s lyrical focus on middle class America. The couple in the song work hard and do not have many worldly possession to show for it – and they do not need any, “Table for two on a TV tray, it ain’t fancy, baby, that’s OK – our time, our way.” The bonds of true love are strong and ever-lasting.

Living in Sin

I was 19 when this album was released and this song spoke to me and jumped out right away. It was not so much the idea of a premarital physical relationship that struck me, rather the idea of the blatant hypocrisy of so many ‘rules’ that I had always felt obliged to follow. The lyric that really captured my attention was, “Is it right for both our parents to fight it out most nights and pray for God’s forgiveness as they both turn out the lights?” At the time I was questioning many rules and societal expectations that struck me as hypocritical or just plain silly. This song made me realize that as I was aging, Bon Jovi aged with me, writing about things that concerned me. This would continue well into my adulthood.

Blood on Blood

This song was never released as a single, but remains one of the band’s most popular songs and is consistently on the set list for a Bon Jovi concert. The song rocks and lyrically touches on the idea of growing up with best friends and then dealing with the idea that we all grow older and move on. We never forget the best friends who were always there for us. Every time I hear this song my best friends, LeRoyce and Marvin, are in my mind. The video is an excellent live version.

Homebound Train

While I love all of the songs on this album, this may be my favorite. This song begins with a bluesy sound and then becomes an excellent guitar driven rock song – and the guitar shreds. Richie Sambora is one my favorite guitarists and I believe he is underrated – this song, and a later song called Dry County, are two great examples of just how good he is.

Wild is the Wind

The previous song has my favorite guitar work on the album and this one has my favorite lyrics. Many of us expect love songs and most of those love songs are somewhat predictable – love lasts or love is lost. What distinguishes this song is the speaker coming to grips with the fact that he is not what she wants and it is time for him to move on. For some reason, the bridge to this song gives me chills: “Maybe a better man would live and die for you, baby, a better man would never say goodbye to you.” This captures the difficulty of having to admit that you do not have what the one you love needs. Great song.

Ride Cowboy Ride

This track serves three purposes. First, it is an excellent setup for the next song. Second, it shows the range of both Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora’s talent and creativity. Third, is it a sign of what is to come with the Young Guns II soundtrack. I have no real great reasons, but I love this short song.

Stick to Your Guns

No love song here. This song answers this question: what are you going to do when people doubt you? It does not matter what the situation is, Bon Jovi has the same answer for all occasions. Getting into a tough music industry is an enormous risk, full of the failures of those who have tried before. I can only imagine how many times Jon Bon Jovi was told to not follow his dream and instead, find a more reliable way of making a living – ‘you do not have a chance.’ Fortunately for all of us, he did not listen – and the rest is history.

I’ll Be There For You

This has to be one of Bon Jovi’s most famous and often played ballads. It has the typical Bon Jovi sound – great guitar work, smooth lyrics, and awesome vocals. I love everything about this song, but my favorite are the lines, “I know you know we had some good times / Now they have their own hiding place / Well, I can promise you tomorrow / But I can’t buy back yesterday.” The heartfelt desperation of this song has always enthralled me and pulled at my heartstrings.

99 in the Shade

This song has always reminded me of a great song on Bon Jovi’s second album 7800 Fahrenheit; this song sounds like a cousin to “Tokyo Road“. I think it is because it has a similar air of fun rock n’ roll and several turns of phrases that I love.

Love for Sale

This song is a perfect end to a perfect album. The band is sitting around on their acoustic instruments and jamming. You can almost hear them saying: the album is finished and it is time for a break – but before we go, here is one more song to remember us by: “We’ve been living together for 3 years, 2 hours, 20 minutes maybe four hundred beers / You can’t shop for love when you’re shopping at Sears / Love for sale.”

Bonus: Love is War

I am including this song even though it was one of the last songs cut from the original release of New Jersey; it was released as a B side to the single Living in Sin. The beginning of it is a bit over the top, but the song is great. It captures the feelings of what sometimes happens in relationships as people change and begin to feel cheated by those changes – sometimes things can get nasty.


New Jersey is an album that represents the pinnacle of Bon Jovi’s career. The band has continued to record great music, and I have all of it, but nothing completely measures up to this rock masterpiece. A 25th anniversary box set was released in July of 2014. It features the original album with extra tracks, a CD with unreleased tracks, and a DVD of the New Jersey tour documentary. As I was gathering a few numbers for this article, I started counting the number of views the videos linked here have on YouTube. The result is a staggering 205,471,009! If you have not listened to New Jersey recently, let this serve as your inspiration to do so. If you have, there is nothing wrong with giving it one more listen.


Wasn’t that awesome!?!?! If you still can’t get enough of this incredible album (and let’s face it, can you ever get enough of it?), check out Rock Out Loud’s most bodacious episode about the New Jersey album.