Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mr Mike Project 1984

Game, Set and Match: The future Mrs. McEnroe transforms into a Kabuki looking super heroine armed with fingers that can shoot walls of heartache.

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.

Disc 1:

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.

Disc 2:

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!


Anonymous said...

Do not miss out on the Whitney Wolanin song with Jimi Jamison, "It Takes Two"

Better than the Kim Weston/Marvin Gaye version

Song is huge in Honolulu Hawaii

Wolanin and Jamison are masterful singers.

Aloha, Dahnno

Mr. Mike said...

Thanks for the tip, I'll check it out!

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Hey, hey, hey! Lay off the Firm! I loved them enough to purchase that cassette. Not a bad song on it. Okay? :-)
Not a big Crue fan. Skanks.
Don't think I know them.
Good choice. I liked that Ratt song.
Moore? No thanks.
New Girl Now is still a great tune! Love it!
Not my most favorite Cars song. Then again, I thought the 80s ruined them, anyway. Candy-O is their best work. It was all down hill from there.
Don't know.
Take or leave.
Turn Up the Radio? Why yes, I think I will.
Yes... sorry Mr. Mike, not my cup o tea. That thing in the middle with the synth, that big, blazing, non-musical sound they do, you know what I mean, in this song. Just not nice.
So You Ran? So I did, away from this band.
And also from this one. Steve Perry did himself no favors with this sappy solo effort.
Tommy Shaw? Strange little fellow. But likeable. This song rocks.
Nice one. Good tune. The whole album was killer.
Good disc one.

Too much synth. Didn't like it as much as their earlier stuff.
Wasn't too keen on this tune, but I loved LRB. For some unknown to this day reason, I had the biggest crush on the lead singer for much of the early 80s. Go figure.
Great choice for whitesnake tune.
Sammy! I love the Red Rocker! Van Hagar killed him. Too bad.
??? Will look them up. Seems I remember the band name, but not the song.
Good song, tho I never much cared for Dennnis DeYoung. He was born about 3-4 decades too late, not so?
Bryan Adams RULED the 80's. I saw him twice in concert. Dude rocked harder than almost anyone else I ever paid to see.
Luv me some ZZ, even now.
Do not, DO NOT, like Lou Gramm. This song is gawdawful, excruciatingly nausea inducing.
Night Ranger! Yeh! This song? not so much.
Slade? They were soooo cool.
Twisted Sister? Yeh, I was one, too. :-)
Scandal? Your friend's friend was right. Stupidest song ever. Or at least one of.
I think I know this song, but I don't recall the name of the band.
Not a big Survivor fan.
JC & the BBBs? Great song.
Toto? Too saccharin for me.
Naughty Naughty, Mr. Mike... looks like you saved the best for last. :-)
Great disc set. But then again... what else did I expect from you, right?

Mr. Mike said...

Good feedback on the discs SKW! I enjoyed reading this one a lot. In the 80's Bryan Adams did rock. I saw him live twice back then too and he brought it each time. Then something happened in the 90's and Adam's just seemed to lose the plot. He kept making money doing sappy songs but artistically it was painful to listen to him. Though "Run to You" didn't make it on my CDs, who didn't want to rise up from a pile of leaves and jam on the guitar after that video?