In 1984 MTV became the undisputed center of the music world and three things happened to AOR as a result: First, the channel pushed a lot of L.A. Pop Metal in the wake of Quiet Riot's success leading to a lot of exposure for bands from the Sunset Strip. Second, established AOR bands saw a lot singers either get pushed to the forefront or make solo albums to become full on "stars" in their own right. You ended up with lengthy titles like Scandal featuring Patty Smyth, leaving no secret who the star of the show was regardless of the band name. Third, AOR started to become more homogenized as outside songwriters like Holly Knight ("Better Be Good To Me", "Never", "The Warrior") became standard issue to aspiring pop rockers. Because of this I tend to think of '84 as the Star Search year or Go Solo. Here's my two CDs for 1984.
Russ Ballard - Voices
The erstwhile songwriter (Santana's "Winning") recorded some stuff of his own, including this track that became a minor hit following heavy exposure on Miami Vice.
The Firm - Radioactive
Jimmy Page + Paul Rodgers should equal greatness, yet all they could muster was one memorable song. I guess the name Bad Zeppelin would have been too definitive.
Motley Crue -Looks That Kill
The kings of the lipstick and leather crowd, Motley Crue first hinted at Satanic danger on their second record led by this lethal dose of Pop Metal.
Arc Angel - Tragedy
Really from 1983, Arc Angel (not to be confused with the post Double Trouble band) pushed themselves to the bottom rung of the charts with this nice ditty.
Ratt - Round and Round
Few mastered the "street urchin" look (bright colored torn clothing, fishnet and poodle hair) like Ratt did and for four minutes they were in hook city with this winner. And every guy air guitared that Warren DeMartini guitar solo and then mimicked the finger pointing straight up on the part where Robbin Crosby takes over.
Gary Moore - Empty Rooms
Back in the day, my neighbor friend used to tape records for me and put a Gary Moore album on the B side of each cassette in an effort to make me a fan. All these years I'm still not a fan, but this song is good.
Honeymoon Suite - New Girl Now
Another artist to gain a lot of exposure via Miami Vice, this Canuck quintet hit pay dirt with this synth backed hard rock anthem.
The Cars - Drive
Talk about a no brainer of a song title, Ben Orr's lovely ballad was a monster hit.
Black n Blue - Hold on to 18
I often regarded this band as a sort of pleasant joke, hard to believe when they started out they actually rocked pretty hard. Probably should have included later material from them when they were more plastic.
Stone Fury - Break Down The Wall
In the Reagan era everyone wanted to break down walls. Lenny Wolf was no exception, rockin it a few years before Kingdom Come.
Utopia - Crybaby
Todd Rundgren's prog rock dream child turned in a decent Pop Rocker with a classic Runt style swaying chorus.
Autograph - Turn Up the Radio
Another band that caused some name confusion (The Russian band of the same name was featured during Live Aid) distinguished itself with a tall ass lead singer and a drummer that defines 80's music vid posturing.
Yes - Owner of a Lonely Heart
The song that started a way of life for me as a Yes fan, spiffy Trevor Horn production puts a nice shine on Trevor Rabin's pop rock glory.
Orion the Hunter - So You Ran
Guitarist Barry Goudreau strikes, filling the Boston void with his version of the beantown AOR band. And he does a real fine job of it here. Would you believe the singer's name is Fran Cosmo?
Steve Perry - Oh Sherrie
The Journey singer proves he doesn't need anyone else to find success on this ode to his then girlfriend. Although he would record two more Journey albums, Steve Perry's solo hits marked the end of an era for me. Journey was never the same afterwards. Doesn't change the fact that this song rules!
Tommy Shaw - Girls with Guns
The Styx axe slinger escapes Mr. Roboto land and turns in his most upbeat song...ever? Zippy synths and slammin drums power this track about - you know what it's about.
Scorpions - Rock You Like a Hurricane
Every sports program and half time show owes a debt to the German metal band's best known song, one of the greatest Pop Metal songs ever. Here I am!
John Waite - Missing You
After dismissing Jon Cain's "Open Arms" as too syrupy, the ex-Baby's singer lets out a ballad of his own backed by a track made for school dance remixes.
Van Halen - Jump
Eddie Van Halen adds more synthesizer to their antics and David Lee Roth finds inspiration in suicide jumpers leading to the band's biggest pop hit.
LRB- Playing to Win
The Aussie Country rockers drop the Country and most of the letters in their name (Little River Band) putting manic keyboards in its place. Freakin' love this cheesy song.
Whitesnake - Slow and Easy
Proof that before David Coverdale was ripping off Led Zep he was...ripping off Led Zep. But few have done it better then or now.
Sammy Hagar - I Can't Drive 55
This seems less rebellious now that the speed limit is 65, at the time this was probably the biggest protest song of the 80's. Sure other generations protested wars, social injustices and what not but we, we protested the speed limit. Take that!
Giuffria - Call to the Heart
One of the great unsung AOR bands led by keyboardist Gregg Giuffria (ex-Angel). They were the minor leagues of AOR with ex band members later going to Quiet Riot, Dio and Boston.
Dennis DeYoung - Desert Moon
Now free of Tommy Shaw, nobody could stop DeYoung from going full on Broadway or his sappy love songs. This led to one of DeYoung's best ballads, the reverie of "Desert Moon".
Bryan Adams - Summer of 69
In the 90's Adams revealed this song was not about the year '69 but the sexual position. And if anyone wants to imagine his pockmarked craggy mug between some girl's legs all I can say is Nasty!
ZZ Top - Legs
The Texas trio found a stream of never ending gold with this cut. Long beards, spinning guitars and Playboy models made this simple yet effective rocker easy to swallow.
Foreigner - I Want to Know what Love Is
For better or worse, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm turn the corner from rock band to balladeers with this unforgettable #1 smash. The gospel choir puts magic in this slow moving inspirational track.
Night Ranger - Sister Christian
Soaring guitars, bic lighter choruses about "motoring" and earnest vocals mark one of the definitive power ballads of the decade. Or if you watch Boogie Nights, great background music for drug dealers.
Slade - Run Runaway
Quiet Riot's cover of their "Cum On Feel The Noize" brought this British glam rock band back for one more round of goofy fun.
Twisted Sister - We're Not Gonna Take It
Speaking of goofy fun, Dee Snider's costumed metal band summed up media inspired teen rebellion with a classic vid clip placing them against the bad guy from Animal House. Between this and Sammy Hagar, teen rebellion seemed so canned back then.
Scandal featuring Patty Smyth - The Warrior
Or if you go with Smyth's New Yawk enunciation, "The War-Re-Uh", shootin up them walls of heartache. Bang! Bang! I remember a friend of a friend gettin' pissed off whenever this song came on, he considered it the dumbest song ever. Good times (I didn't care for that guy).
Van Stephenson - Modern Day Delilah
Sleek pop rock that makes me want to cruise L.A. at one AM. Don't ask me why.
Survivor - I Can't Hold Back
Two of the greatest voices in AOR, Jimi Jamison and Starship's Mickey Thomas, combine on one of the Chicago band's best songs. And that music video was pure Risky Business.
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band - On The Dark Side
Bruce Springsteen's chief acolyte came up with a strong Boss pastiche. Michael Pare', where are you now?
Toto - Stranger in Town
"Stranger in Town" has been sort of shunned by the band after its release rarely making Greatest Hits or Best of comps despite the fact that it charted. Sure it's a silly song with boogie man vocals and a lyrical theme that makes no sense on the surface other than bizarre xenophobia. But still, it charted (it hit like #30 on the pop charts or something like that).
John Parr - Naughty Naughty
You know what really sold me on this song? When they used it for commercials in a vampire movie called Near Dark. Something about that advertisement really got the rhythm hook jammed in my brain and I haven't forgot it ever since.
And that was 1984. Next we go to the heart of the 80's, 1985!