Saturday, April 04, 2009

Mr. Mike AOR Project 1986

For a second, Samantha Fox was all over the Arena Rock sound thanks to her impressive talent. No, no, just kidding. It really was all about her looks.

Okay, we're up to 1986. Arena Rock's general popularity was fading. The sound of melodic rock had been co-opted to the point that it didn't carry as much power. Mainstream pop / rock rose at this time as artists who previously shied away from hard guitars and bracing choruses came up with a softer, more accessible version for the mass public. With dwindling interest in real Arena Rock, many of the bands fell back on Adult Contemporary to stay alive. Emphasizing power ballads as their single releases to make an impact on radio.

At the same time, MTV who had embraced Heavy Metal in '84 moved away from it in '85 following parental backlash. By '86 the softer version of Arena Rock was MTV's main rock sound. It looked like Arena Rock was going to go out to pasture until a guy named Jon found the magic formula of outside songwriters, marketable looks and hairspray to take Arena Rock to the next level: Hair Bands!

Disc 1:

Mr. Mister - Kyrie

My wife has been learning Japanese and there is a word in that language that sounds like "Kyrie" that means clean or pretty. I got to watch Mr. Mister perform this song at Grad Night in DisneyLand back in '86, you haven't lived until you've seen that.

Van Halen - Why Can't This Be Love

The first time I heard this, I was at a party when someone played the 45. An awesome song, I was blown away by how good Sammy Hagar sounded with VH. I ran out and bought the 45 the next day.

Giuffria - I Must Be Dreaming

At the time it seemed like a big mistake for Giuffria to not lead off with a big ballad for a single like their first album. Considering how this record stiffed in the marketplace, maybe I was right. It's still a great song though.

Daryl Hall - Dreamtime

Weird that a team up with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart would generate a pop rocker like this one. With no wild Oates to sow, Hall cranked up the guitars and psychedelia for his biggest solo hit.

Starship - Sara

It's not Stevie Wonder on the harmonica, it's a synthesizer pretending to be him that leads off this #1 hit. A pleasant wistful pop ballad given a big boost by Risky Business' Rebecca De Mornay starring in the video. A video that says Sara was a slutty drunk, but I still luv u baby!

Stryper - Honestly

Christian Rock presents its ultimate power ballad to the man upstairs, the yellow and black attack get their biggest chart hit as a reward.

Boston - Amanda

The shocker of '86, I was a huge fan of the first two Boston records and assumed the group would never record again (the previous album had been released in 1978). I played this sucker to death when I bought it.

Haywire - Standin' in Line

This band I found out about just this year, apparently they never made it out of Canada. Good clean Arena Rock, they don't make 'em like this anymore.

Eddie Money - Take Me Home Tonight

The Money Man figured out he needed a he tightened up his sound and brought in Ronnie Spector for a cameo. Wasn't this tune used in a burger commercial? It's a hunger....A HUNGEERRR!!!

Don Johnson - Heartbeat

You know, if Sonny Crockett sang to his perps instead of shot them he might have killed more criminals.

Stan Bush - You've Got The Touch

Not a big hit at the time, this jam has come to represent the cheesy excess of the Arena Rock sound. Next time you want some motivation, play this song loudly.

Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone

Let's be honest, the only thing dangerous about Kenny Loggins is how much nose hair gets on his finely manicured 'stache. Still couldn't stop the man from howling about riding into the Danger Zone with thunderous drum fills. Tom Cruise wouldn't have it any other way.

Mike and the Mechanics - All I Need Is A Miracle

Mike Rutherford's busmans holiday was shaping up to be a rival to his day job with a second Top 10 hit. This glossy rockers with a positive 'tude would make into the soundtrack of many a movie afterwards.

Robert Palmer - Addicted To Love

After the success of the Power Station, Palmer did some math. Having hits with three other guys means less money than having hits by yourself. So he dumped the Duranites and did the Power Station sound all by himself. And came up with a classic 80's smash backed by zombie beauty queens.

John Parr - St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)

The title song to my favorite Brat Pack movie. Oogata Boogata Boogata Ah Ha Ha!

Ozzy Osbourne - A Shot In The Dark

I used to think of this as Ozzy's sell out to the mainstream, but now the Prince of Darkness has a freakin' variety show.

Kansas - All I Wanted

No more violins, the wayward sons carried on to the AC charts with this shiny ballad.

Bon Jovi - You Give Love A Bad Name

The saviors of Arena Rock! Bon Jovi took the cheesy elements of the core sound and multiplied them by 100. Within a few months of this hit, all bands had teased hair and feel good anthems to pump your fist to. The Hair Metal era began it's run on the Pop audience.

Disc 2:

Emerson Lake and Powell - Touch and Go

What would have happened if Cozy Powell wasn't brought in to replace Carl Palmer? If they hired Mick Fleetwood they would have been ELF. If they got Russ Kunkel it would be ELK. Any other letter combination would have sucked even harder. It had to be Powell. Had to be.

ZZ Top - Sleeping Bag

This song kicks so much as that my head would explode if I even thought I knew what it was talking about. So you have a sleeping bag, so what?

The Outfield - Your Love

The British trio found a way to combine the sharpness of The Police with the anthemic ways of Arena Rock. Their style managed to transcend categories, scoring with Pop fans, Rock fans and College Rock. I saw them perform in the summer of '86, they performed a twelve minute sing a long version of "Your Love" that was excruciating to listen to. Put me off the song for a year.

Triumph - Somebody's Out There

Like letting air out of a tire, the Canadian power trio dropped the Metal and streamlined their sound for radio play. And yet they still came up with gems like this one.

GTR - When The Heart Rules The Mind

Proggers Steve Howe and Steve Hackett joined forces for one album and one hit song. "When The Heart..." is all about these two out noodling each other on the fret board to a Journey beat, making it one of the greatest songs ever!

Van Halen - Dreams

Maybe the signature song of the Van Hagar era, fighter pilots everywhere draw inspiration from the charged attitude and Blue Angels video.

Pat Benatar - We Belong

Tired of being pigeonholed as a Hard Rocker, Patty B mellows out with a clapping rhythm and heroic vocals.

Glass Tiger - Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)

Whenever I think of this band, I think of what would have happened if the "Gl" part of their name had come off before the record release. But that's just me. Oh yeah, Bryan Adams cameos on this...big year for cameos!

John Farnham - You're The Voice

This was a worldwide smash hit everywhere but here. Leaving LRB, John Farnham becomes an Australian Demi God with this "We Are The World" type of jam. Play this with "We Belong" and "You've Got The Touch" and you will find you can climb mountains and swim across seas.

Genesis - Invisible Touch

The Phil version of Genesis kicks into Pop overdrive starting with this song, electronic drums and swirly synths in tow. I often thought of this as a sort of horror movie song. Think about it, she has an invisible touch that can reach inside of your heart to tear it apart. Like a hollow point bullet or something.

Honeymoon Suite - Feel It Again

Much of my blog has been dedicated to the greatness of this song, so I won't elaborate much more. Other than to say it rules!

Moody Blues - Your Wildest Dreams

Talk about left field hits, nobody, and I mean nobody, was expecting 'ol "Nights in White Satin" to have a #1 Pop hit. Patrick Moraz says you're welcome.

Steve Miller Band - I Want To Make The World Turn Around

The Miller Man takes his Miller Band to pay tribute to Pink Floyd on this very Floydian song.

Journey - Be Good To Yourself

Some people remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about a history changing event. When I first heard this song, I was with my Dad and brother in the car to go skiing in Nevada. After getting to the hotel, I sat with my tape recorder and waited patiently for this song to come back on the radio so I could record it. Journey was back!

Lou Gramm - Midnight Blue

Gramm's solo career started off with an emphasis on what he felt was a more Garage rock sound. I used to force my voice to sound all gravelly so I could imitate this song and sing along in the car.

Europe - The Final Countdown

Is there anything more excessive than a Pop Metal band imitating ELP? For a second it looked like Cozy Powell joined the wrong band. An evergreen of rock cheese, this song has seen a resurgence recently that is well deserved.

David Lee Roth - Yankee Rose

Like Robert Palmer, DLR did some math and figured out renting Eddie Van Halen was better than working with him. So Roth roped in up and comers Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan to go up against the Hagar fronted VH.

Samantha Fox - Touch Me (I Want Your Body)

Before there were Spice Girls there was just one girl, UK's famed page three beauty Samantha Fox. The Fox and her rough British accent brought a trashy tartiness to a silly slice of danceable pop rock.

Next up is 1987, Arena Rock launches into the next phase.

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