Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mr Mike's High School Record Collection: Corey Hart - Boy In The Box (1985)

The 80s are known for the two Corey's...but there was a third. He's forgotten now, yet there was a time when a young man revealed he wore sunglasses at night and a nation followed his every word.

When Corey Hart had his monster hit "Sunglasses At Night" it fit in perfectly with early MTV - he had the clean looks girls liked, he was creating a superficial trend and there were enough synths to blend in with New Wave. In '84 I saw him as the opening act for Hall & Oates where he revealed himself to be an energetic pop rocker with a handful of decent material (the ballad "It Ain't Enough" was good and I think there was some song about the radio). But hey, I'd be lying if I said I thought this kid had a future past that. He was going to be a one hit wonder, his fate seemed inescapable.

Just don't tell that to Corey Hart. He cheated fate. Hart spiked up his hair, flipped up his shirt collar and moved into an exclusive club: the two hit wonder.

1. Boy In The Box

"Boy In The Box" is a distinctly 80s sounding song that I didn't really understand. I took it to be like he was comparing the intro of his second album to the spring action of a jack in the box. Like he's the jack in the box who's jumped out to entertain us. Except he's not a toy, he's flesh and blood! Corey wants us to know even though he's an entertainer, he's a person with feelings too. Facing fame and the pressures of stardom with the innocence of a boy, and the world of pop music is the box trapping him. Dance boy, dance!

2. Komrade Kiev

How funny that we can look back at the Cold War as a simpler time. We knew who our enemies were, they were geographical nation states that were easy to define. Russians, the USSR, Communism, we were raised to believe these were the ultimate evils of the universe. Still a bold man, we'll call him Corey Hart,questioned that kind of blind allegiance. Or at least that's how I took Komrade Kiev, where Corey goes on about the similarities between him and Russian folk until the chorus orders him to "Shoot Komrade Kiev!" Funny enough, the hooky chorus to this song is probably the catchiest thing I've heard from Hart, this phrase often pops in my mind when I see 80s movies where Russia is the bad guy. Like that Arnold Schwartzenegger movie Red Heat.

3. Never Surrender

And it was here where Corey Hart landed his second major pop hit. This St Elmos Fire sax blaring anthem to self reliance. Even though it was played everywhere, I didn't feel like this was that great a song. Maybe it was the watery keyboards in the intro and aforementioned sax that stood out? Or that line "And when the night is cold and dark / you can see, you can see light"? Maybe it was the dramatic music video that made Hart seem like the star of a lost John Hughes movie? Watching this clip again, I didn't notice how much Hart looks like a young David Dacovneney - I don't know how to spell the guy's name, you know that actor that was in the X Files and went to rehab for sex addiction? He looks like that guy. Or to be more period accurate, a dark haired Emilio Estevez. Those two guys look nothing alike,I don't know why I'm elaborating on this point anymore. Anyway, "Never Surrender" was a smash hit and I started to like it once I had the record. Never Surrender! (see fist pumped into the air).

4. Sunny Place - Shady People

You ever notice how when someone has a hit song on their next album they sing a lot of songs about trust issues? Or business deals? Or L.A.? "Sunny Place - Shady People" seems like the obligatory song for that. I'll also use this to throw in my Hart To Hart reference. Stephanie Powers, I wonder what ever happened to her? She was a pretty woman with an awesome acting name.

5. Eurasian Eyes

Throw lack of privacy in that stack too. Actually, "Eurasian Eyes" struck me as a moody ballad that had the word "Eurasian" thrown in to make it seem more interesting than it was. These your-eyes-haunt-my-soul sort of songs were commonplace back in the day. Still does a good job of reinforcing his image as a tortured romantic. Eurasian eyes stop staring at my spiky hair, can't you see that I'm never surrendering!

6. Everything In My Heart

It was "Everything In My Heart" that motivated me to buy this record way back in '85. A pretty simple love song yet so effective, I remember liking the percussion and on this track. Had that type of snare drum sound that went "Boom!" Also enjoyed the earnest vocal of Mr. Hart as well. There used to be this tv program on a local independent tv station called California Music Channel where this dorky guy would play music videos for half an hour. We didn't have cable tv, so CMC was a key to my getting a daily music video fix and it came on after I got home from school. It was on this station I got into songs like A-ha's "Take On Me" or Simple Minds "Sanctify Yourself". When I snapped up this disc from the $2 rack a little over a week ago, I looked forward to this cut the most. It's still good stuff.

7. Silent Talking

Not to be confused with the Yes song of the same name. I'm starting to get the feeling Hart likes to juxtapose opposites - sunny places, shady people and talking that's silent. My favorite part of this U2 styled pop rocker is the chorus which says starts every line with the phrase "Do you want..." because for some weird reason I hear "Screw you..." So instead of hearing "Do you want I say goodbye to me" or "Do you want I say hello" I hear "Screw you I say goodbye to me" or "Screw you I say hello." Which makes the song sound better to me as well.

8. Waiting For You

After playing the tortured romantic all day Hart recognizes its time to change the pace. Here Hart is the playful faithful guy, telling his lady of the 80s that she's not alone 'cause he's right beside them. It's a filler track for sure, but it has an important role in showing Corey Hart isn't all frowns.

9. Water From The Moon

Another common 80s songwriting theme that never truly resonated with me - water and the moon. I get its supposed to be mystical or what have you, it's just not a theme I dig. Like this is something about the mysteries of the universe and he draws his I don't know teeny bopper appeal super powers from water from the moon and maybe you could too or who knows. All I know is for non Christian rock artists getting into these Sun and Moon metaphors was a way to get kinda spiritual without alienating anybody. Again, love the percussion on this cut it has that slapping electronic drum sound that reminds me of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing".

"Never Surrender" kept Corey Hart in the spotlight until he tried to get more mature on his next outing. I only bought the singles to that one, there was "I Am By Your Side" and a sleepy cover of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling In Love". And then Corey Hart disappeared from view, sort of like the two Corey's themselves. Now seems like a good time to look at wikipedia to see what happened after that.

Holy crap, Corey Hart had quite the career in his native Canada. 26 Top 30 singles? Had no idea he was considered for the role of Marty McFly in Back To The Future, guess I'm not too far off in the Brat Pack comparisons. And now he lives in the Bahamas writing songs for Celene Dion.

Good for you Corey Hart. Sure your career peak was that of a shallow teen heartthrob, but you wrote your own stuff that was genuinely catchy with a personal point of view. You really have talent. Thank you for showing us that you can...Never Surrender!


Rock Brigade Blogger said...

Being from Canada Corey certainly dominated here for a few years in the eighties. I actually had tickets to see him in concert when he was touring in support of this album but something happened to cancel the concert. I can't recall what it was.

Rock Brigade Blogger

Mr. Mike said...

Sorry to hear he had to cancel that show back then, I actually enjoyed his performance more than Hall & Oates that evening. I find it interesting when an artist is more successful in a country different than America, it's cool how people can hear the same song and have different reactions. Like I'm a big fan of Toto, an American group that is more successful in Europe and Japan than their native country.