Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mr Mike AOR Project 1987

I had this poster up on my wall back in the day, right next to James Bond.

1987, the year that will live in infamy. It lives in infamy because it was the year that Arena Rock's most infamous incarnation took hold of the mainstream. Hair Bands! Spandex, hairspray, makeup, party hearty anthems to work up a sweat and mushy ballads to make mascara run, went for middle America's jugular and took first blood. So flick your bic and hold it high because we're rocking like Amadeus into 1987 (and yes, "Rock Me Amadeus" was 1986).

Disc 1:

Sammy Hagar - Give to Live

The Red Rocker was feeling very "peace on earth and goodwill to men" on his contractually obligated solo album a year after joining Van Halen.

Whitesnake - Here I Go Again

Remember back when Tawny Kitaen wasn't all jacked up? Doing cartwheels on fancy cars seemed so simple then. She gave David Coverdale a reason to twirl his mic stand.

Guns N Roses - Welcome to the Jungle

One of the definitive rock anthems of the decade, Axl Rose's screeching over Slash's rampaging riff is 80's rock magic. It's still often used as a story telling device when a show or movie wants to introduce urban blight. As for me, I thought of this song often when I worked at a Marine animal theme park a year later.

Survivor - Is This Love

The last Top 10 hit for the AOR legends was this spiffy pop rocker with a Steve Perry style vocal hook. Love the cascading keyboards on this one.

Yes - Rhythm of Love

Guitarist Trevor Rabin thought it would be funny to make a Yes song about sex. And in that context, it is pretty funny.

Genesis - Tonight Tonight Tonight

What started as an eight minute prog album track turned into a 30 second beer commercial phenomenon which led to a three minute pop hit. They don't call Progressive Rock "Math Rock" for nothing!

Bonfire - Sleeping All Alone

Cutout bin classics Bonfire generate some heat.

Europe - Carrie

Swedish meatballs Europe wipe away the tears with sheer power balladry.

Bob Seger - Shakedown

What was supposed to be Glenn Frey turned into Bob Seger's monster hit to the Beverly Hills Cop 2 soundtrack. Shakedown...take're busted!

Heart - Alone

One of the best remembered of all the power ballads, Heart's dramatic take on I Ten's song raised the bar on glossy theatrics. That's why it gets sung every year on American Idol.

Patty Smyth - Downtown Train

Before an, er, trainload of people got the idea to cover this Tom Waits song the ex Scandal singer had her take on it.

Bon Jovi - Wanted Dead or Alive

Ok, there's such a thing as too much ego and Jon Bon Jovi's comparisons of this song to "Stairway to Heaven" back in the day is a clear example. It's a great song, who doesn't want to be a cowboy on a steel horse or see a million faces and rock them all ?

Motley Crue - Girls Girls Girls

Some magazine had a caption for this song I can't beat. It said something like "L.A. Rockers ode to the titty bars they love." That's downright poetic.

Bryan Adams - Heat of the Night

A guaranteed hit song as the first single of a new album following Reckless, Adams hits a heavy groove that he would never touch again in the years of movie soundtrack love songs that would come later.

Aerosmith - (Dude) Looks Like A Lady

And with one fell swoop, Aerosmith replaced the Dallas Cowboys as "America's Team" with a fired up declaration to transgender issues.

Cutting Crew - (I Just) Died in Your Arms

A big year for (parenthesis), I was watching VH1's one hit wonders of the 80's and everyone came to the conclusion that this song is about sexual climax. Huh huh, I said "came". I still think that guitar lick was pilfered from "Der Kommisar".

Andy Taylor - Take it Easy

Barney, Opie and the gang get together for one last song on the porch before Otis stumbles in and eats Aunt Bea's Apple Pie. Ex-Duran Duran guitarist took his shot at Arena Rock glory and came up with this decent nugget for Mitch Gaylord's American Anthem movie.

Disc 2:

Dokken - Dream Warriors

One, two Dokken's after you. Guitarist George Lynch tries to outshred Freddy Kruger and wins.

The Outfield - Since You've Been Gone

I saw the band perform this live before the second album dropped, I was so sure this was going to be a big hit. Little did I know the public had enough Outfield from the first record.

Tesla - Little Suzi

It was practically Sacramento, CA's theme song in the late 80's as the local boys made good. Last year during MTV's celebration of their channels launch I found out this was originally a new wave song by a different band. Had no idea!

Cinderella - Nobody's Fool

You know, that girl's tilted clock hat fad never really took off. Cinderella started with flash and glam before bloozing things up a few years later.

Night Ranger - The Secret of My Success

Nothing says Flashback like a theme song to a Michael J Fox movie co-written and produced by David Foster. Throw in the synth horns and this is like Chicago on steroids.

Bon Jovi - Livin On A Prayer

Jon Bon Jovi delivers his masterpiece, a brilliant mix of talk box effects and escalating chorus vocals. I watched this interview with Desmond Child one time, he said he gave this song a Latin flair. Another one of those things I would have never guessed.

Georgia Satellites - Keep Your Hands To Yourself

The Satellites gave Southern Rock a good name and for a second seemed to have a strong future.

Ace Frehley - Into The Night

Space Ace took his leave of KISS to record some decent songs including this sly rocker. Last night the video came on VH1 Classics, it's powerful stuff.

Great White - Rock Me

Maybe one of the best song titles in Arena Rock, this long cut stealthily sneaks up on you and then shifts into overdrive. So sad what happened at that club years later.

Boston - We're Ready

A sort of forgotten hit even though it made the Top 10, it is almost never included in Boston's greatest hits comps. I have no idea why, it's wicked awesome.

Jet Boy - Feel The Shake

A great 80's rock band name if there ever was one, Jet Boy hit the afterburners on this anthemic tune.

REO Speedwagon - That Ain't Love

It threw everyone for a loop, Kevin Cronin grew a mustache! He looked all old and goofy with that thing on, made it hard to take him seriously. Ironically, with a bitter song like "That Ain't Love" Cronin was asking to be taken seriously. He looked like a snake oil salesman.

Pink Floyd - Learning To Fly

This was all over the radio back then, it was the first Pink Floyd song to be listenable since The Wall in 1980. Tongue tied and twisted just an Earth bound misfit, I.

Foreigner - Say You Will

No more head games, Foreigner made one of their patented midtempo pop rock jams the first single. A game of wordplay reigns supreme, say you will, say you won't, say you do, say you don't...damn, they've got a lot to say.

Rick Springfield - Rock of Life

It was rough not being able to squeeze more Genius into these CDs, but fortunately '87 was a weak year for AOR. Springfield takes a Sting like quality in the verses before slamming into the shifting chorus.

Fleetwood Mac - Big Love

I was so convinced it was Stevie Nicks making those little gasps countering Lindsey Buckingham's. Turned out both gasp noises were Buckingham, he just sped up his voice on the second set.

Starship - Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now

You may think being in love with a Mannequin is wrong, but who are you to judge? You can't put limits on love! The heart wants what it wants.

Looks like we're heading towards the end, just two more years to go in this magnificent decade. Don't hate '88, it's almost here.

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