Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mr Mike AOR Project 1985

It's the roar of the crowd: Arena Rock's commercial slickness and focused energy became attractive to movies and aging rockers who wanted to meet mass appeal.

1985 was the year AOR went Hollywood, movie soundtracks and classic rockers hit the arena rock scene hard. The Iron Eagle soundtrack spawned a slew of Arena Rock classics, so much I purposely limited the number of songs on these CDs because it was dominating the whole thing. So, not included are Queen's "One Vision", Adrenalin's "Sign of the Gypsy" and Eric Martin's "These Are The Good Times". On top of that was the classic Rocky IV soundtrack, giving us another shot of John Cafferty and Survivor genius. Following '84's Footloose soundtrack, Arena Rockers were finding a lot of work playing over a film's ending credits or getting cut into that most famous of 80's film fads, The Montage. At the same time, Rock legends from the 60's like Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton jumped in too choosing slicker sonics to blend with the times. Arena Rock was still big business and everyone wanted in.

Disc 1:

Heart - What About Love

The Wilson sisters kicked off their new deal with Capitol records by releasing a nice shiny epic power ballad. Few on the planet can wail like Ann Wilson.

Fiona - Talk to Me

The smoky voiced chanteuse will forever be the person Demi Moore lip sync'd to in No Small Affair to me, though she is probably better known for acting opposite Bob Dylan in his big screen flick. Fiona tried every trick in the book to achieve fame to no avail, which is shocking because if a duet with Kip Winger called "You're Sexing Me" can't get you attention then what can?

David Lee Roth - California Girls

Diamond Dave rocked out the Beach Boys classic to the tune of random shouts and windmill kicks, giving him the delusion that he could do it all on his own. If only I could get a DeLorean and go back in time to stop him.

Alan Parsons Project - Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)

Wistful is not an adjective that comes up much in Arena rock, the pomp rockers get all teary eyed over the magic Traveller man. Travel on you questing spirit!

Loudness - Crazy Night

The Japanese Metal Gods tried the American market for a little while, I couldn't get a good copy of the excellent "Let it Go" so I went with another good tune from them.

Robert Tepper - No Easy Way Out

Just think, without Robert Tepper then Rocky might never have jumped into his Porsche to drive away his regrets and fears over Apollo Creed's death. Drago!

Supertramp - Cannonball

Who needs Roger Hodgson? Oh yeah, Supertramp does. The first single sans Hodgson was a sleek piece of jazz rock that sounds oddly close to the James Bond theme towards the end.

Bryan Adams - Heaven

Forgotten fact about this song: it was released as part of a soundtrack for a movie where Christopher Atkins (Blue Lagoon) is a male stripper in a relationship with his teacher Lesley Ann Warren. A Night in Heaven I think it was called. Or if it was made today, it would be titled Another Day at School.

Mick Jagger - Just Another Night

The Stones front man shaked and shimmied as hard as he could to make this song fly. He nearly succeeds as he pushed this to the Top 20. Sorry Mick, you really need Keith to make this stuff work.

Motley Crue - Home Sweet Home

Before it was American Idol's kiss off song, the Crue took power balladry to new heights on this jam which saw them switch from Satanic leather to spandex and scarves. No longer shouting at the devil, they're all sensitive and missing home.

Dokken - In My Dreams

Dokken still rhymes with rockin', their best heavy harmony topped off with George Lynch's blazing guitar. In the early 90's this song was remade as a dance track by a Disney group called The Party.

Starship - We Built This City

Stiff, mechanical, dopey and cheesy: everything I love! The Starship hit warp speed with this idiotic yet insanely memorable smash. I even had the twelve inch back then which consisted of five minutes of the drum machine pattern going over and over again followed by the regular song.

Marillion - Kayleigh

They didn't make much of a splash in the U.S., Marillion was a well respected British prog band who hit the European charts with this pop cut.

Survivor - The Search is Over

It's like Cats with rockers, Survivor croon their dramatic tale that made the list of VH1's Awesomely Bad Love Songs just because it's about finding true love after dating a lot of women.

The Hooters - And We Danced

Philadelphia's eccentric pop rockers were named after an actual musical instrument, not what you might think (get your mind out of the gutter!). For some reason this band has a knack for writing hits for female singers, case in point - Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Joan Osbourne's "One of Us" (you know, the what if God was on the bus song).

Fortune - Dearborn Station

One of the lost bands of AOR, Fortune released a classic Arena rock disc in '85 and was virtually ignored for their trouble. Not so, ahem, fortunate.

Van Zant - I'm A Fighter

Before reviving Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Van Zant took a shot at making a name for himself and made a little bit of headway with a two fisted rockers and ballads approach.

Disc 2:

Asia - Go

The last sort of hit for the British Prog AOR group, "Go" is like listening to Manheim Steamroller with Barry Manilow on lead vocals. That sounds awful, but it's really good. At least to me.

Magnum - On A Storyteller's Night

Germany likes to rock and Magnum serves up a bright shiny anthem that builds from a ballad to straight ahead rock. Combined with Asia, they serve up a special kind of cheese that can only come from Europe.

Tina Turner - Better Be Good To Me

Half the fun is listening to Turner's raspy insistent delivery, at it's core "Good to Me" is classic Arena rock dressed up in Adult Contemporary garb. The other part of the fun is listening to my wife's great Tina Turner imitation :)

REO Speedwagon - Can't Fight This Feeling

Along with Survivor, '85 was a big year for finding love right under your nose. Was it social commentary as the 60's spirit of unmarried sex combined with the wave of conservatism created a culture where it was expected to sleep around before getting married? Nope, just coinkidink. This song added some much needed miles to the Speedwagon's career as it shot to #1 on the Pop charts.

Joe Lynn Turner - Endlessly

Ex-Rainbow singer JoLT powered his solo debut with this magnificent moody ballad. I got to see JoLT live when he opened for Pat Benatar a year later, thought it was funny his tour shirts stressed JoLT with a lightning bolt because there was a caffeine heavy soda at the same time with a similar logo. Ah, that soda got me through many a college final.

Huey Lewis and the News - The Power of Love

Maybe a little too bar band to be true Arena Rock, nonetheless Huey Lewis and the News made a dent in the Pop Rock scene. This song gave Michael J Fox the power to skateboard his heart out in Back to the Future.

Mr. Mister - Broken Wings

Singer / Bassist / Songwriter Martin Page turned down a shot at replacing Peter Cetera in Chicago because he had faith in his own band. For one year he was right, Mr. Mister hit the top of the charts twice. Then after that it looked like he totally made the wrong choice as Mr. Mister decended into oblivion.

Eric Clapton - She's Waiting

Slowhand's hook up with Phil Collins produced some of his biggest AOR moments, "She's Waiting" was one of his best of Clap's 80's phase. Though I've always had a soft spot for that Miller beer remake of "After Midnight".

Michael McDonald - No Lookin' Back

Yes, there were occasional moments where Mikey McD would sing lead instead of background vocals. "No Lookin' Back" was McD's attempt to get out of R&B pop purgatory, an attempt that failed but still gave us a nice piece of soulful AOR.

Loverboy - Lovin Every Minute Of It

Written by Mutt Lange, it looks like Def Leppard, sounds like Def Leppard, but it's not. It's not Def Lep, it's Canada's Loverboy droppin' the New Wave to take their shot at full on Arena Rock.

The Power Station - Some Like It Hot

Driven by what I consider to be the single greatest drum performance of the Reagan Presidency, the late Tony Thompson gave the renegade Duran Durannies (John and Andy Taylor) something to dance about. And the cool sophistication of Robert Palmer didn't hurt either.

Heart - Never

This delicious chunk of wiry Arena Rock (Neevverrr! Never Run away...) was a huge smash not just for its catchiness. Nancy Wilson bouncing, writhing and kicking throughout the vid clip in tight spandex was a key selling point for millions.

Mike and the Mechanics - Silent Running

Okay, I never did figure out if this song went to a movie or not. The video made it seem like it belonged to a movie about aliens or something. Either way, Paul Carrack backed by Genesis' Mike Rutherford made a sleek proposition for high tech mystery.

Rush - The Big Money

The egghead hard rockers railed against THE MAN with this textured swipe at Corporate greed.

Y&T - Summertime Girls

Same old story: Long running Bay Area hard rock outfit sells out to pure cheese for MTV airplay. "Mean Streak" this is not. And yet I cannot resist it's sub-Hagar charm.

King Kobra - Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)

Damn right you never say die, this is America!

The Cars - Tonight She Comes

Little did we know at the time that this would be the last Cars hit to have any real impact. Ric Ocasek's offhand delivery distinguishes this synth heavy hit.

And Cut! That's a wrap people, see you in 1986.

3 comments:

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Too sleepy to make a coherent comment. I'm coming back tomorrow (I hope) to read the whole thing. Looks great already, tho. HOpe you are feeling better.

Mr. Mike said...

I'm doing a little better now, thanks for asking! Look forward to seeing your comment. Congratulations on your good news!

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