Hey Everybody! Welcome back to this week’s Top 40 Countdown! If you missed the previous songs, you can go back and check out songs 40-31, 30-21 and 20-11. When I began this week, I had no idea that this would be one of the best, if not THE best countdown I’ve covered so far. Let’s see if this streak continues today. Let’s Return to the week ending January 19, 1985, and wrap up the countdown.
Top 10 Protest or Socially Conscious Songs from the ‘80s
by Robert Mishou
I recently finished a wonderful Young Adult (YA) novel by Todd Hasak-Lowy entitled Me Being Me is Exactly the Same as You Being You. What I liked about this book wasn’t the story – it was fine, not outstanding, but fine. What I was captured with was the format of the narrative – it was told completely in a series of list. This very inventive story had characterization, setting, climax – everything, but it all had to be put together by the reader through lists! I loved it and found it a groundbreaking way to tell a story. More importantly, it has rekindled my love for lists. So, coming at you for the rest of 2016 will be a series of lists of my favorites from the ‘80s. This first list will be my top 10 favorite protest or socially conscious songs from the decade that does not get enough credit for being serious when times called for it.
There are those who find protest song tedious and there are those who seek protest songs and work to ‘feel’ the issue. I fall somewhere in between. I like protest songs and I use them as a springboard to learn more about the issue that the song is focused on. I do not seek out protest songs, but I do love the insight that most of them give on human life and the struggles we face. I have always loved looking for and understanding songs that have a clear socially conscious message. So as not to cull protests from you, ‘80s fans, here is my list.
Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
We all have our pet peeves. I am no different, so here is mine: it drives me absolutely bonkers when there is a patriotic celebration, like 4th of July fireworks, and I hear this song blasting from the speakers. Are we really that ignorant of lyrics and their meaning? Can the general public not understand tone? Born in the U.S.A is nowhere near a song that celebrates America’s heritage. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In this song, Springsteen sings about the poor treatment of America’s fighting men who have returned home from Vietnam. Despite the recent Veteran’s Day celebrations, we should not forget that not that long ago, many of those veterans returned home to very poor treatment. Springsteen writes:
Came back home to the refinery
Hiring man says, “Son, if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said, “Son, don’t you understand”
No, they did not understand why the country they risked their lives to defend was not treating them in such an unwarranted way. Yes, despite being just a baby during this time, I do know of the public perception of the war in Vietnam, but Springsteen sees them all as excuses and his tone suggests that they are completely ridiculous. The Vietnam vet, who is the speaker in this song, ends by revealing his desperate situation:
Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Got nowhere to run, ain’t go nowhere to go
All of this is framed with the sarcastic chorus, “Born in the U.S.A” – in essence, how can a man who fought for his country, who lost his brother in the same war, now not get a job now that the war is over? Please, for me, the next time you hear this song played for a patriotic celebration, turn to the person next to you and explain what the song is about.
Welcome back to another week of Top 40 music! I am so worn down by this election season. And now it’s time to celebrate the end of this disgusting chapter in U.S. politcs. And what better way to celebrate than to take a shower, and listen to some great music. And this is going to be a great week of music! We are Returning to the week ending November 10, 1984. This week we had just elected Ronald Reagan to his second term as president. I was only 14 at the time, but I don’t remember the campaign being so dirty back then. So let’s go there, and Return to the week ending November 10, 1984, and begin the countdown.
[Reminder: If you want to hear the song/watch the music video, you can click on the song title]
This was John Waite’s follow-up to “Missing You“, and was overshadowed. That is a shame because this is a pretty good song. It kind of sounds like a song Bryan Adams would do. A good mid-tempo rocker. Not a bad way to begin the countdown.
This song was the second single released from Bruce’s classic Born in the U.S.A. album. It was originally written for Donna Summer, but Jon Landau, Springsteen’s manager, thought the song was a potential hit. So he kept it for the upcoming Springsteen album.
It didn’t take long for The Cars to make another appearance on this countdown! This was the third single released from Heartbeat City. This is a little different sounding Cars song. Not only is it a ballad, but instead of Ric Ocasek singing lead, the band’s bassist, Benjamin Orr sang lead. The music video was directed by actor Timothy Hutton. It is mainly known for featuring model Paulina Porizkova, who would later become Ric Ocasek’s wife.
What a great way to end today’s list of songs! This is one of my favorite Benatar tunes. This was the lead single off of her 1984 album Tropico. The song earned Benatar a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance alongside Linda Ronstadt, Tina Turner, Madonna, and Whitney Houston (won by Whitney).
Well that wraps up today’s list of songs. Not a bad way to start the week, right? Is everybody else ready for this election season to end too? We’ll be back tomorrow to continue the countdown.
Hi Everybody! The long wait is finally over. Time for the newest installment of “Who’s the Boss?” I can’t believe that it’s been almost 4 months since the last one – Darkness on the Edge of Town. Today, we’ll take a listen to Springsteen’s follow-up album, The River. If you are new, or missed the previous “Who’s the Boss?” articles, you can go ahead and see what this is all about.
I had heard of The River before, but I had no idea that it was a double-album. Let’s go check it out.
Originally, Bruce Springsteen’s album, The River, was to be released in 1979 as a single album called The Ties That Bind. But, after writing the song, “The River”, Springsteen wanted to add even more darker material to the album. The album was released on October 17, 1980. I did not read up on any information on the album before I started listening to it. So, I was not expecting the amount of dark material on the album. There are many fun rock songs on the album, then takes a dark turn. According to Bruce Springsteen: Two Hearts – The Definitive Biography, 1972-2003, it was intentional to have a combination of fun and dark songs: “Rock and roll has always been this joy, this certain happiness that is in its way the most beautiful thing in life. But rock is also about hardness and coldness and being alone … I finally got to the place where I realized life had paradoxes, a lot of them, and you’ve got to live with them.”
Needless to say, this is a very interesting album. As always, you can click on the song title to listen to the song on YouTube.
Great start to the album. It’s a good, rockin’ song. No matter how down you are, and how much you want to get away, and be by yourself, you will always have the ties that bind you to your friends, family and community.
Time to slow things down a bit, which means Emo Bruce is in the house! It’s lucky for us that he had music as an outlet for his daddy issues. In this song, Bruce has come to the realization that he and his father will never get along, so he’s going out on his own. This is a sad yet beautiful song. I’m really taking to these storytelling songs.
Ah, a very familiar song. I always liked this song. I first discovered Bruce Springsteen from his Born in the USA album. When the songs from that album got overplayed, this was a nice alternative for me.
I’m liking this song. It has the same type of beat as “Hungry Heart” – not a ballad, but not a flat-out rocker. The piano is well done. And of course, you can’t go wrong with a song that features a sax solo by the legendary Clarence Clemons.
This kind of starts off sounding like a Spanish type of song. This is a really nice ballad. While I am beginning to warm up to emo-Bruce, it is nice to hear him singing a slow song that doesn’t make you want to hang yourself.
We have arrived at the title track. This is another storytelling song, which means emo-Bruce is back. He knocked up Mary just after high school, and they have to get married, and begin their real life. This doesn’t sound like the same couple from the earlier song, “I Wanna Marry You.” This wedding here sounds depressing:
We went down to the courthouse
and the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
No flowers no wedding dress
Will we close out the album with a fun rockin’ song, leaving us wanting more, or will we end with emo-Bruce. Here’s a hint:
An ambulance finally came and took him to Riverside
I watched as they drove him away
And I thought of a girlfriend or a young wife
And a state trooper knocking in the middle of the night
To say your baby died in a wreck on the highway
As depressing as these songs are, I really enjoy the storytelling.
– “Hungry Heart” was Springsteen’s first U.S. pop singles chart top ten hit single, reaching number five. When Bruce wrote the song, it was actually intended to be for The Ramones. However, manager/producer Jon Landau convinced Springsteen to keep the song for himself.
– According to BruceSpringsteen.net, it was announced on October 16, 2015 that Springsteen will celebrate the 35th anniversary of The River by releasing the long awaited box set titled The Ties That Bind: The River Collection on December 4, 2015. It will contain 52 tracks on 4 CDs with a wealth of unreleased material along with 4 hours of never-before-seen video on 3 DVDs or 2 Blu-Ray discs.
Even though it may seem like I was not enjoying the dark songs, I really loved this album! This may even be my favorite Springsteen album so far. The upbeat songs just flat-out rock, and the dark songs tell good, albeit depressing stories. It’s good to have a combination of the different styles. And Springsteen did this masterfully.
The next album will be one that most of us are familiar with. I’m sure you can pretty much guess what it is. There are some songs on it that are new for me, so I am looking forward to it. And it won’t take as long to post about it.
Let me know what you think of The River,and if you have any memories from it.
Hi Everybody! We are back with a new album for “Who’s the Boss?” If you are new, or missed the previous “Who’s the Boss?” articles, you can go ahead and see what this is all about. Kristin, from Rock Out Loud, had suggested that I start my Bruce Springsteen journey with the Live 1975/85 album. This was a stroke of genius on her part. A lot of songs from that album were also on the Born to Run album as well as today’s album, Darkness on the Edge of Town. I feel that if I had just jumped right into these studio albums first, I wouldn’t have appreciated the songs as much. Bruce’s storytelling and the emotions, that he poured into the live versions of these songs, got me warmed up and ready for the studio versions.
Now let’s get into the next album of the “Who’s the Boss?” series – Darkness on the Edge of Town.
Darkness on the Edge of Town was Bruce Springsteen’s fourth studio album. It was the follow-up to Bruce’s big breakthrough album, Born to Run. Darkness on the Edge of Town was released in 1978 – three years after Born to Run. It took so long because Springsteen got into a legal battle with his former manager and producer, Mike Appel. Without getting bogged down into too much detail, basically Springsteen was young and naive when he first signed on with Mike Appel. It turns out that Bruce was getting a raw deal on royalties, and he did not have the publishing rights to his own songs. While Bruce was getting out of that contract, he signed with a new producer, Jon Landau. Appel filed an injunction that prevented Bruce from entering a recording studio. The matter was finally settled out of court. To get more details about this, and to see the recording process of this album, I highly recommend watching the awesome documentary, The Promise: The Darkness On the Edge of Town Story – Bruce Springsteen.
Although this album did not have any high charting singles, it is one of Springsteen’s most beloved albums. It actually stayed on the charts for nearly two years and is certified triple-platinum.
So, let’s see what everybody is raving about. You can click on the song title to listen to the song/watch the video.
Love! I first heard this song on Live 1975/85. The music and vocals are great. So far, I really enjoy the songs where Bruce’s voice is at a deeper tone. And of course the lyrics are awesome. Here is a perfect example,
Talk about a dream
try to make it real
You wake up in the night
with a fear so real
Spend your life waiting
for a moment that just don’t come
Well, don’t waste your time waiting
I know this song from Live 1975/85. I like this song. It rocks. But, I prefer the live version. So far in this series, I kind of liked the live versions and the studio versions of songs equally. But, this is one of those instances that the live version is far superior.
Another song that is on Live 1975/85. If I started the series with this album, I would be bored with this song. But as I become more educated, I know to pay special close attention to the lyrics on these slow songs. Bruce really paints a picture in his storytelling.
Not to sound like a broken records, but this is another one that I first heard on Live 1975/85. This is another classic Bruce song with incredible lyrics.
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted
This is Bruce being Bruce, hammering into your head that he speaks for the working man. Putting my facetiousness aside, I do like this song. I’m finding that not too many people, if any, can tell a story in song better than Bruce.
This is a new one for me. I like this song a lot. It kind of feels like a Jackson Browne song. I love the sax solo and then how it goes into a guitar solo. I think this is my favorite of the songs that were new to me on this album.
I have gotten all of these facts from 100.7 WZLX (a Boston classic rock station)
– The album cover was shot at the photographer’s home in New Jersey.
After doing photography for Patti Smith and notable early punk rockers, photographer Frank Stefanko was given the task of shooting the album cover and inner photos for Darkness. The two met through Patti as a mutual connection. Bruce drove down to Stefanko’s house in Haddonfield, New Jersey with just a change of clothes and shot both inside the house and on surrounding streets. The cover for Darkness was shot in Stefanko’s bedroom, while a photo from the same shoot was later used for The River.
– Bruce wrote 70+ songs for the album
According to Jimmy Iovine, Springsteen wrote at least 70 songs to be chosen for final inclusion on Darkness, and over 50 of them were at least partially recorded but not completed. Bruce ultimately wanted to retain the themes present in the album’s main tracks and avoid “singles” that may not have fit the narrative. But some of those songs eventually saw the light of day…
– Unreleased tracks like “Because the Night” were re-purposed or given to other artists
Springsteen’s compilation The Promise contains 21 unreleased tracks that were recorded mostly from 1976-1978, many of which from the Darkness sessions. Most notable is “Because the Night”, which Bruce gave to Patti Smith and became one of the latter’s signature songs.
– At least 16 songs remain unreleased
Despite the dozens of recordings that eventually saw release on the River or subsequent compilation albums, there are at least 16 known recordings that are circulating as bootlegs but have never been given an official release. These songs include “Preacher’s Daughter”, “Down By the River”, “Castaway”, “Cheap Thrills”, and “Blue Moon”.
Does anybody else like this album or have any memories you would like to share? And don’t forget, please check out my friends Steve and Kristin on the Rock Out Loud podcast. It is a lot of fun, and it is a great place to rock out and enjoy music that you may not hear on any other podcast.