Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mr Mike Project 1981

OK, we're up to 1981. A year that saw the people who practically invented the genre make their final significant contribution to their legacy (The Stones, The Who). Arena rock was in full swing with Styx, REO, Foreigner and Journey dominating the charts. A year to remember indeed.

One of the big debates I had with myself was where to draw the line between mainstream rock and Arena Rock. It was a tough call sometimes. I immediately removed anything that seemed hardcore Metal, so no Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, etc. New Wave artists who were considered Arena Rock later on, i.e. The Police and U2, didn't make the cut. Also, I had to rule out most Midwestern rock, so no John Mellencamp (though "Hurts So Good" came close to making my list), one Bob Seger song and no Tom Petty. The only major Midwest rocker I included was Bruce Springsteen, just because I've seen him twice and its hard to sit through a stadium of people sing along to "Hungry Heart" and not consider him a little Arena Rock. That and other people on my discs were heavily influenced by the Boss so it seems strange to not have him there.

What made it close even for Springsteen is what I consider to be the overriding element of Arena Rock: Cheese. There must be cheese. Not smooth, tasty cheese either. It must be government cheese, cheap and strong like a pimp's cologne. You can smell it a mile away. It must be overblown and a little pretentious to become real AOR. Like standing downwind from a sewage treatment plant, you must sense the overpowering nature of Arena Rock!

Disc 1:

Loverboy - Working For The Weekend

The Canadian rockers pumped up the wavy synths and came up with the all time anthem for weekend warriors everywhere. Get ready 'cause it's flag football time.

AC/DC - For Those About To Rock

No subtlety allowed in the land of Album Oriented Rock, you gotta give it up to a band that literally pulls out the canons to blow you away.

Rush - Tom Sawyer

It's probably my old age, but geekdom was tougher in the old days. You didn't have as many computers to do the thinking for you, games required dice and calculating imaginary statistics. Watching movies required going to a movie theater. And the bands you listened to had musical prowess and science fiction lyrics. Yet all the wisdom points in the medieval world couldn't match the awesome power of Rush. If you spent hours playing Star Raiders on Atari with a wore out joy stick then this is your jam.

Pat Benatar - Fire and Ice

Remember those old all weather tire advertisements that would put the tire through heat and cold? That has nothing to do with this song, Pat wails about those head playin' dudes.

Jefferson Starship - Find Your Way Back

Guitarist Craig Chaquico tears it up with this catchy rocker that plays well off of Mickey Thomas' soaring voice. Did Paul Kantner have a clue that he was losing control of his band? Hmmm...

38 Special - Hold on Loosely

What can I say about this song I haven't said already? How about calling this "Important dating tips from heavily bearded men."

Foreigner - Urgent

"You're not shy / You get around" Lou Gramm sets up the story early about his hard rock bootie call punctuated by Junior Walker's magnificent sax solo.

Rod Stewart - Young Turks

I couldn't fit "Infatuation" in on 1984, hated "Baby Jane" and didn't think "Lost in You" had enough impact so I settled for "Young Turks". My wife said I didn't like this song. Maybe I didn't, but it fits the bill in representin' Rod in the AOR 80's.

Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl

Two words: Pure. Genius.

Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak

The Lep make the jump to the big time with this pounding ballad, can't you see...can't you see......No! No-oauh! Noooaahhhh! And then a decade later Mariah Carey would transform this song into an epic disaster.

Point Blank - Nicole

Two fisted drinking bar band sound with a slight California polish. Makes me want to grab Janet and Chrissy for a drink at the Regal Beagle.

Triumph - Fight The Good Fight

The poor man's Rush set their flash pots for kill on this, er, triumphant salute to power rock. Oh, and I totally mean that as a compliment, I love Triumph!

Styx - Too Much Time On My Hands

Tommy Shaw's sardonic tale of unemployment blues strikes a chord as much now as it did then.

Rainbow - I Surrender

Restraint has never been Richie Blackmore's strong suit, but here he stays out of wailin' Joe Lynn Turner's way.

Spider - New Romance

Would you believe this early 80's band wrote and performed John Waite's "Change" and Tina Turner's "Better Be Good To Me" first? I couldn't either but it's true. Classic upbeat 80's power pop dressed up as AOR.

Santana - Winning

One of the great sports montage tracks of the time, I remember a local commercial featuring a lot of jogging in slo mo to the tune of this track.

Bruce Springsteen - Hungry Heart

Really this came from '80 but I decided to place the Boss on my discs at the last second. Would you believe this was originally written with The Ramones in mind?

Kansas - Hold On

Another 1980 track, I just had to have some classic lineup Kansas thrown in if I could.

Disc 2:

The Rolling Stones - Start Me Up

Is that the sound of Window's '95 loading? The last great Stones rip gets their swagger on in a big way. I'm still curious about how this sounded when they tried to make it reggae.

Chilliwack - My Girl

Always loved this bands name. Alternating between sunny and dark as the girl in question stone cold leaves Chilliwack in the dust.

REO Speedwagon - Take It On The Run

Arguably the Illinois band's best known track, we all took the "Heard it from a friend who" section hook line and sinker.

April Wine - Just Between You and Me

Myles Goodwin gets all sentimental and French thinkin' misty eyed thoughts.

Journey - Who's Cryin' Now

The addition of keyboardist Jon Cain gave vocalist Steve Perry the writing partner he needed to sell heartfelt ballads to the muscle T masses.

Blue Oyster Cult - Burnin For You

You know you want to throw on some shades and drive your El Dorado to the park to chug a lug some brew when you hear this song. Admit it!

Peter Frampton - Breaking All The Rules

Because I wasn't covering the 70's I was really worried I would have nothing to represent the guy who ushered in the Arena Rock era in earnest. Then I found this cut on ITUNES. I was so freakin' happy.

Night - Hot Summer Nights

I found out about this group on ITUNES too. Never heard of them before that, but you can't beat this laid back good time rock with a quintessential 80's band name.

Red Rider - Lunatic Fringe

This is one of those songs that hung around all decade long but never seemed to become a big hit.

Van Halen - Unchained

My all time favorite Van Halen track, monster guitars and David Lee Roth throwin' attitude all over. Hey hey, one break comin' up!

Prism - Don't Let Him Know

Another of Canada's finest serves up electro hand claps and razzle dazzle keyboards to a marching beat.

Sammy Hagar - There's Only One Way To Rock

...and it's Sammy's way.

Genesis - Abacab

I don't know much about playing musical instruments, but I was blown away when it was revealed the title is a chord progression.

ELO - Hold On Tight

A great song. So why have all my memories of this cut been obliterated by a commercial for pain relievers?

Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen

My favorite witchy woman let's her white winged dove loose to a jittering guitar riff.

The Cars - Shake It Up

Is it mainstream rock or is it New Wave? We'll never know, The Cars were the only band to straddle that line perfectly.

The Who - You Better You Bet

How many CSI shows do you think they'll have to make before this gets made a theme song? You Better (shine a flashlight on a dead body) You Better (look constipated viewing through a microscope lens) You Bet (act like a big shot at a crime scene). CSI Tacoma anyone?

The Little River Band - The Night Owls

When the bass player sang lead on this track, little did they know that it would eventually result in his taking over the band. He wasn't even an original member! But Little River Band still tours to this day, the bass player is the only guy that was there for the hitmaking years.

That's 1981, my next set of CDs go to the year that got me hooked on music - 1982.


Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Hey Mr. Mike! Government Cheese? Kinda sounds like the name of a band, don't it? :) Perhaps the bastard child of Weird Al and Devo?

I gotta protest your concept of "midwest rock". I understand why you would call them that, but... You KNOW Springsteen is from Jersey, and Tom Petty is from Florida. I know you do. That would not be "midwest". :)

First disc? Sign me up. I want one. How could I have so totally forgotten about Spider - New Romance"? I LOVED that song. I have got to get that one on my mp3 player. (btw, what does one call the thing when it isn't an ipod? Do you just call it an ipod anyway? I'm so not gadget hip. I don't know the lingo.)

Disc two? I think I might like it. You know I love anything from Frampton. Tom Cochran and Red Rider always rock. It was a big hit in my neck o' the woods. WDIZ played the hell out of it. Which was fine by me.
And I was a huge Little River Band fan. Much to my sister's chagrin. She hate them, so naturally I played them at full volume. :) That's what she gets for driving spikes thru my brain with all that incessant playing of Pat Benatar and Pink Floyd. Bletch...

Two more great discs, Mr. Mike. Keep em coming, eh?

Mr. Mike said...

Government Cheese does sound like a good band name, I like it!

It is true that I applied the term midwest rock to people not from the midwest, but my wife can tell you I'm horrible with geography. Springsteen, Seger, Cougar and Petty don't sound alike but I feel they have a similar approach. A little more bar band, blue collar vibe. You know, honest artistic integrity and all that. It's a great sound, I just couldn't marry it up with the slickness of AOR.

MP3 player is good for talking about the music player, otherwise I think people just refer to it by the brand name they own. Before IPOD we had Rio MP3 players so we just called it "The Rio".

You knew who Spider was? That's really cool! I found them by accident a few weeks ago on ITUNES.

lostinube said...

Rush - Tom Sawyer

Plus, if you're an old school wrestling fan you can imagine Kerry Von Erich coming to the ring at the Sportatorium. Ah..WCCW.

Kerry may have sucked but them boys drove the crowds in Texas wild.

Mr. Mike said...

The modern day warrior! The Von Erichs actually came before I followed wrestling but I learned about them through a video game I had. Cool stuff.