Saturday, December 15, 1984

Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” hit #1: December 15, 1984

Originally posted December 15, 2011.



Bob Geldof made his name initially as the frontman of the Boomtown Rats, an Irish punk-pop outfit which got its start in the late ‘70s and found success with a pair of #1 songs on the UK charts with “Rat Trap” and “I Don’t Like Mondays”. However, in his obituary someday, the leading line will reference him as the man who organized Band Aid and Live Aid.

Geldof was so moved one night by images from a BBC documentary of starving Ethiopian children, that he felt obligated to do something. He connected with Midge Ure, the frontman from Ultravox, to pen a song about the those suffering in the African famine. He then tackled his rolodex to round up a Who’s Who of British pop music to sing a Christmas charity single as the collective Band Aid. Among the stars he enlisted were Bono, Phil Collins, Sting, George Michael, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Status Quo, Paul Weller, Spandau Ballet, Heaven 17, and Kool & the Gang.

The superstars gathered at Sarm West Studios in London on November 25, 1984. They started the recording process by singing the “Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time” refrain first as a group. Then individual singers sang the song the entire way through so that Ure, who also produced the song, could splice the best parts together for the final version. WK The whole song was recorded within a 24-hour period. WK

The song sold 750,000 in its first week of release in England, making it their fastest-selling single in history at the time. MG It went on to sell more than 3.5 million, making it the best-selling song in Britain until Elton John’s 1997 re-recording of “Candle in the Wind”. WK Combined with the 1985 Live Aid concert, Geldof’s efforts raised £110 million. MG




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Friday, September 14, 1984

The First MTV Video Music Awards: September 14, 1984

Originally posted September 14, 2012.

image from vibe.com

Barely three years old, MTV launched its first video music awards in 1984. They handed out the awards on September 14 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in a show hosted by Bette Midler and Dan Akyrokyd. The big nominees of the night were The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” (winning for Best Cinematography) and Herbie Hancock’s “Rock-It”, each with eight nominations. Cyndi Lauper received nine total nominations for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (6) and “Time after Time” (3).


Hancock was the big winner of the night taking home five trophies (Special Effects, Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Art Direction, Editing). The Cars took the prize for Video of the Year with “You Might Think”. Best Male Video went to David Bowie’s “China Girl” while Lauper’s “Girls” won for Best Female Video. ZZ Top’s “Legs” garnered the award for Best Group Video and their “Sharp Dressed Man” snagged Best Direction.

Other “Moonmen” awards – they were nicknamed for the astronaut statuette inspired by MTV’s then-logo – went to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (Best Overall Performance, Best Choreography, Viewers’ Choice), the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” (Best New Artist), Van Halen’s “Jump” (Best Stage Performance).

In addition to performances from Bowie and ZZ Top, Tina Turner, Huey Lewis & the News, Rod Stewart, and Ray Parker Jr. all performed. However, it was Madonna who stole the show with her performance of “Like a Virgin” during which she slunk around on the floor in a wedding dress.

Note: seven of the videos which won awards that night appear on the DMDB list of the top 100 videos of all time: “Thriller” (#2), “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (28), “Every Breath You Take” (29), “Rock-It” (30), “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” (34), “You Might Think” (39), and “Legs” (97).

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Saturday, August 4, 1984

August 4, 1984: Prince’s Purple Rain hits #1 in U.S. for first of 24 weeks

First posted 6/25/2011; updated 7/12/2019.

Purple Rain

Prince & the Revolution


Released: June 25, 1984


Charted: July 14, 1984


Peak: #124 US, #4 UK, #113 CN, #11 AU


Sales (in millions): 14.48 US, 0.6 UK, 26.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: R&B/pop


Quotable: “A landmark that solidified Prince’s standing as the preeminent pop genius of his generation” – Pitchfork’s Carvell Wallace


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Let’s Go Crazy (Prince) [4:39] (7/18/84, #12 US, #12 CB, #11 RB, #19 AR, #7 UK, #2 CN, #10 AU)
  2. Take Me with U (Prince) [3:54] (with Apollonia, 1/25/85, #25 US, #27 CB, #40 RB, #7 UK)
  3. The Beautiful Ones (Prince) [5:13]
  4. Computer Blue (Prince/John L. Nelson/Wendy & Lisa/Dr. Fink) [3:59]
  5. Darling Nikki (Prince) [4:14]
  6. When Doves Cry (Prince) [5:54] (5/16/84, #15 US, #14 CB, #18 RB, #31 AR, #4 UK, #13 CN, #11 AU)
  7. I Would Die 4 U (Prince) [2:49] (11/28/84, #8 US, #10 CB, #11 RB, #58 UK, #12 CN, #96 AU)
  8. Baby I’m a Star (Prince) [4:24]
  9. Purple Rain (Prince) [8:41] (9/21/84, #2 US, #12 CB, #4 RB, #18 AR, #6 UK, #3 CN, #41 AU)

Review:

Prior to the Purple Rain movie and its soundtrack, Prince was known as “a multi-instrumentalist and prodigious musical upstart” PF who “famously stonewalled music press royalty…You were not to know who he was or where he was from. You were not to fully comprehend his race nor his gender.” PF Purple Rain thrust Prince into the limelight so that everyone knew he was. The movie told a “schmaltzy tale with Prince taking the role of The Kid, beset by parental woes and the inevitable girl trouble.” MF It “cracks open the shell of his reclusive sex alien persona to tell something of an origin story, one slightly more than loosely based on Prince’s real life.” PF

It was an unexpected hit; it cost only $7 million and made over $68 million. NME It ranks in the top ten of the Dave’s Music Database list Top 50 Music Movies and, despite its “cringeworthy acting,” BBC serves as “a big-screen showcase for Prince to perform these songs (some of them in tear-the-roof-off ‘live’ versions set in a Minneapolis club).” JE All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said it was designed “as the project that would make him a superstar, and, surprisingly, that is exactly what happened.” AMG “The film turned this diminutive Midwestern oddball into a pop-culture giant on par with Elvis, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson.” BB

Prince had experienced mainstream success before. With his previous album, 1999, Prince scored top ten hits with “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious.” However, Purple Rain became a juggernaut, landing four top ten hits and spending a whopping 6 months atop the album chart. It was big right out of the gate, debuting at #11 with sales of a million and a half. It hit #1 four weeks later, WK knocking Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. from the summit – and then being dethroned by that same album 24 weeks later.

Erlewine said this was “more focused and ambitious than any of his previous records.” AMG The album “manages to deftly thread the needle between a dazzling array of genres: disaffected synth pop, tongue-wagging hair metal, dark R&B, and pleading soul.” PF Prince demonstrates his “ability to fashion the most avant garde pop imaginable while still making you want to shake your booty.” BBC “He plays rock better than rock musicians, composes better than jazz guys, and performs better than everyone, all without ever abandoning his roots as a funk man.” PF

“Let’s Go Crazy”

“In arguably the best intro in pop history, Prince spends the first 40 seconds of this smash single playing gospel preacher, telling us to forget about the afterworld and start enjoying this one.” BB This song “thematically picks up where the titular title track from 1999 leves off, namely: ‘We’re all going to die one way or another, so let’s rock while we’re here.’” PF On the “major metallic-funk hit” GS Prince “goes for a monstrous synth-and-guitar sonic attack turning the song into a hair-metal and synth-pop classic at once.” GS Prince rips “the kind of ostentatiously speedy Van Halen-esque guitar work that would become the audio version of the generation’s early MTV aesthetic.” PF

“Take Me with U”

This is the closest thing the album has to a dud, PF but Prince’s work, like Stevie Wonder, “brims with so many compelling musical ideas that they can be found hidden in even the weakest of tracks.” PF “After some frenzied drum rolls and a paranoid keyboard riff, Prince u-turns into a sweet psych-rock duet with Apollonia, his costar in the film. It’s a song about love conquering all, and the frilly orchestral synth sounds add to the neo-‘60s vibe.” BB This song was originally intended for the Apollonia 6 album. Reportedly, Prince played all the instruments on the song except for the string overdubs. WK

“The Beautiful Ones”

While most of the Purple Rain album was recorded as a band, this song, “Darling Nikki,” and “When Doves Cry” are solo Prince recordings. WK This song presents “Prince the serpentine…at his most coiled, his falsetto vocals syrupy and tightly wound until they explode into a wounded animal scream.” PF “Despite those heavy synths and hollow Linn drums—go-to electronic effects on early Prince albums – ‘The Beautiful Ones’ doesn’t play like some bad ‘80s New Wave song. This lush ballad begins with Prince asking, ‘Is it him, or is it me?’ and over the next five minutes, he gives his would-be lover an increasingly intense sales pitch. By the end, he’s down on his knees, shredding that guitar of his. Let’s see the other guy beat that.” BB

“Computer Blue”

Originally written as a 14 minute opus, this song had to be edited down to make room for “Take Me with U.” WKThe opening dialogue between Revolution band members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman “may either be about an impending sex act or an impending cup of tea.” PF “The ensuing song is a club jam about the common ’80s theme of existential technological alienation.” PF It incorporates “the unlisted ‘Father’s Song’ that showcases Prince’s talent for crafting a surprisingly emotional narrative out of a chord progression and a guitar solo (foreshadowing, perhaps?) before devolving into feedback, wordless screaming, and the intro to the crowning achievement of the first half.” PF

“Darling Nikki”

“The only thing rawer than the guitars are the lyrics, all about a porn-loving gal not shy about pleasuring herself in hotel lobbies.” BB This is “a thumping, loping, grinding fuck song about getting dirty with and getting played by the timeless femme fatale.” PF The lyrics made it a target of the Parents Music Resource Center, spearheaded by Tipper Gore. The group pushed for parental advisory labels on albums with what they deemed questionable content. WK

“Salaciousness aside, ‘Darling Nikki’ is a stunning piece of music.” BB The “quivering undulating coda, impossibly finds the musical link between burlesque backing bands and thrash metal double bass pedal rumbles.” PF The distorted vocals at the end of the song are the result of recording an extra verse during a rain storm and then playing them backwards. NME

“When Doves Cry”

The album’s masterpiece was “When Doves Cry,” the top-selling single of 1984 BB and the biggest song of Prince’s career. The single preceded the album by a month and caught everyone off-guard with its unusual bass-free sound. Critic Dave Marsh called it “the most influential single record of the eighties.” MA The song is featured in the book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

The confessional song features Prince’s “most pointedly personal lyrics yet” PF as he “fears he’s becoming like his emotionally unavailable parents:” BB “Maybe I’m just like my father/Too bold/Maybe you’re just like my mother/She’s never satisfied.” The “steadily unfolding melodic progressions…expertly capture the helpless confessional pleading of a man trying to figure out who he is and why it hurts so damn much.” PF

“I Would Die 4 U”

This “is a celebratory, if lyrically morose, jam distinguished by a vast swaths of new wave synth, deep bounce and an insistent high hat.” PF Lyrically, there is debate as to “whether this dance floor favorite is about the connection between god and man, as many fans suggest, or simply the spirit of devotion between two lovers.” BB

This song, “Baby I’m a Star,” and “Purple Rain” were recorded live at the First Avenue Club in Minneapolis on August 3, 1983. Overdubs and edits were added later. The show was a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theater and marked the first appearance of Wendy Melvoin as a guitarist in Prince’s band. WK

“Baby I’m a Star”

“As he wrote the Purple Rain album, Prince was already thinking about the movie, and he knew damn well he was about to break big. ‘Baby, I’m a Star’ is his early victory lap,” BB “serving notice that he’s greater than we could have ever imagined (turned out he was right) and that we need either get on board or get left.” PF “‘You might not know it now, but I are – I’m a star,’ Prince tells a global audience about to be rocked in ways it can’t begin to understand.” BB

“Purple Rain”

The title cut, an “epic and uncharacteristic arena jam” PF which Rolling Stone magazine said recalls Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel”, “finds Prince taking on the world of stadium rock and beating it at its own game.” MF A couple of sources have written that the title comes from a lyric in the America song “Ventura Highway.” WK As for the lyrics for “Purple Rain,” Prince initially reached out to Stevie Nicks, but she said, “I listened to it and I just got scared…I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.’” NME He also reached out to Journey’s Jonathan Cain when he worried the song sounded too similar to “Faithfully.” Cain decided the songs only shared a few chords and gave his blessing. NME

The song was originally an 11-minute opus that was whittled down to the eight-minute version on the album and then edited further for the single version. A verse and chorus were cut because their focus on money didn’t fit. NME The song “is a baptism, a washing clean of sins and a chance at redemption, even if the words don’t make any sense, (and to most people they don’t) the vastness of the arrangement, the grandiosity of the soloing, the pleading of the vocals reaches you, makes you cry, makes you feel free.” PF It is “one of the most affecting blues soul laments ever recorded” BBC and a fitting “tour de force” BBC to cap off a “rare critical and commercial success that justifies every scrap of hyperbolic praise.” BB

Reissue

A 2017 reissue of the album included a remastered version of the original album, a disc of previously unreleased material from the era, a disc of singles and B-sides, and a DVD of a live 1985 performance.


Review Source(s):


Awards:


Saturday, July 7, 1984

Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. hit #1: July 7, 1984

Originally posted 7/7/12. Updated 7/7/13.

image from desktopnexus.com


Release date: 4 June 1984
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. Born in the U.S.A. (6/23/84, #9 US, #5 UK, #8 AR, sales: 1.0 m) 2. Cover Me (6/23/84, #7 US, #16 UK, #2 AR, sales: 1.0 m) 3. Darlington County 4. Working on the Highway 5. Downbound Train 6. I’m on Fire (2/16/85, #5a US, #5 UK, #4 AR, #6 AC) 7. No Surrender (6/16/84, #29 AR) 8. Bobby Jean (6/23/84, #36 AR) 9. I’m Goin’ Down (9/7/85, #9 US, #9 AR) 10. Glory Days (5/25/85, #4a US, #17 UK, #3 AR) 11. Dancing in the Dark (5/26/84, #2 US, #4 UK, #1 AR, sales: 2.0 m) 12. My Hometown (12/7/85, #6 US, #9 UK, #6 AR, #1 AC, sales: 1.0 m)

Sales (in millions): 15.0 US, 0.9 UK, 30.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 17 US, 15 UK

Rating:


Review: “It's…hard to believe now that for much of his [pre-Born in the U.S.A.] career Bruce Springsteen was a gigantic cult artist; a musician who could sell a couple of million records and fill hockey rinks, but who was was no more likely than Elvis Costello to get airplay on pop radio.” CDU On the strength of seven top-ten pop hits, this album sold 30 million copies worldwide and “catapulted Bruce Springsteen from cult-favorite critics’ darling to stadium-rocking global superstar.” JW While Born in the U.S.A., “trafficked in much the same struggle” AMG as 1982’s Nebraska, Springsteen “softened his message with nostalgia and sentimentality” AMG as his characters reminisce of Glory Days which have passed them by and how, in My Hometown, a father proudly shows his son around the town only to have that son grow up to sadly show his son how desolate the town became.

Glory Days

Bruce also added “big, sing-along choruses” CDU and a commercial slant unseen in his previous work. The music “incorporates new electronic textures while keeping as its heart all of the American rock & roll from the early Sixties…Springsteen…embraced…the legacy of Phil Spector’s releases, the sort of soul that was coming from Atlantic Records and especially the garage bands.” DM The album reminds us that what “teenagers loved about rock and roll wasn’t that it was catchy or even vibrant but that it just plain sounded good.” RC The result is his “best…pure pop songwriting ever.” AZ Nowhere is this better exemplified than with Dancing in the Dark, “the breathtaking first single” DM and the biggest hit of his career.

Dancing in the Dark

Springsteen rattles off one of his most powerful anthems with the title cut, Born in the U.S.A.. Thinking the song extolled the pride of being American, “the witless wonders of the Reagan regime attempted to co-opt…[it] as an election-year campaign song.” AMG The fact that it was “a brutal account” CDU of “the disenfranchisement of a lower-class Vietnam vet” AMG “whose country forgot him” AZ escaped their attention completely.

Born in the U.S.A. (live)

It signaled that the characters wouldn’t be like previous album’s “scruffy hoods with colorful names like the Magic Rat…[but] nameless working stiffs” JW who “dread getting stuck in the small towns they grew up in almost as much as they worry that the big world outside holds no possibilities.” DM In I'm on Fire, lyrics like “Someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull/ And cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul” evoke an image of a “pock-marked Harry Dean Stanton type, lying, too wired to sleep, in a motel room.” DM

I’m on Fire

Still, “Springsteen’s exuberant voice and the swell of the music clues you that they haven’t given up.” DM For example, on the “classic buddy/road song” JW Darlington County, Springsteen sings of “two guys [who] pull into a hick town begging for work…but he gives them music they can pound on the dashboard to.” DM No Surrender is “a friendship anthem for the ages” JW and “one of the best tunes the man has ever written.” JW Bobby Jean also touches on the hopeful endurance of friendship. It serves as an ode to guitarist Steve Van Zandt, who’d just left the band. Certainly lyrics like “‘Maybe you’ll be out there on that road somewhere/ In some motel room there’ll be a radio playing and you’ll hear me sing this song/ Well, if you do, you’ll know I’m thinking of you and all the miles in between’” DM “may put a lump in your throat” DM but thanks to a “wall of sound with a soaring saxophone solo…the music says, Walk tall or don’t walk at all.” DM


Resources and Related Links:

My Hometown


Award(s):


Friday, July 6, 1984

The Jacksons Kick Off Their Victory Tour: July 6, 1984

Originally posted July 6, 2011.



By mid-1984, Michael Jackson was the biggest music star on the planet. On its way toward becoming the biggest selling album in history, his Thriller album generated seven top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, more than any album in history.


Click to see the DMDB page for Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’


Naturally the world clamored for Jackson to hit the road. Instead of launching a solo venture, he and his five brothers toured as The Jacksons. It would be the final concert tour for the group. The Victory tour started on July 6, 1984 and ended five months later on December 9. With a gross of roughly $75 million, it was the largest-grossing tour of all time up to that point. Approximately two million caught Jackson and his brothers in 55 shows across the United States and Canada.

The tour generated controversy for selling a then-record number of tickets at the then-high price of $30 a seat. Buyers also had to purchase blocks of four tickets at a time. The Jacksons themselves made good money from the tour, but the promoters lost millions.

Other than a medley of Jermaine’s solo hits, Michael handled all lead vocals. The set list focused on his solo work from Thriller and Off the Wall as well as The Jacksons’ material from the Destiny and Triumph albums. An album, also called Victory, was released in conjunction with the tour but none of the songs were performed live. The lead single, “State of Shock”, debuted on the Billboard charts the week before the tour launched and eventually reached #3.



The Jacksons with Mick Jagger “State of Shock” (includes clips from the Victory tour)




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Saturday, June 30, 1984

Huey Lewis & the News’ Sports Hits #1: June 30, 1984

Originally posted June 30, 2011.



In today’s musical landscape, if an album doesn’t debut at #1, its chances of ever reaching that peak are slim. Albums don’t “climb” the charts. They operate more like movies – their first week out of the gate is their biggest and they decline from there.

Huey Lewis & the News released Sports in the autumn of 1983. It first hit the Billboard charts on October 8, 1983. It wasn’t until the next summer that it finally hit the pinnacle for a solitary week. By that time, the album had logged three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. “Heart and Soul” had reached #8, “I Want a New Drug” had climbed two spots higher, and “The Heart of Rock and Roll” was spending its fourth week at #6.



A fourth single – “If This It” – also found itself just outside the top 5. More than a year after the release of the album, “Walking on a Thin Line” was released as a fifth single, peaking at #18. All five singles proved their crossover worth as well by hitting the rock charts. The four top-ten singles did the same on the rock chart. “Heart and Soul” even climbed to #1.

Lewis & Co. had released two albums prior to Sports. Their 1980 self-titled debut didn’t even chart. 1982’s Picture This achieved gold status on the strength of the top ten single “Do You Believe in Love”. The minor hits “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do” and “Working for a Living” followed.

However, Sports turned the group into superstars. This was the heyday of the video age and Lewis & Co. embraced it wholeheartedly. They became mainstays on MTV and developed an identity lacking on their two previous albums. Lewis had an easy air about him; he was an everyman who was funny, self-deprecating, and likable. It was no accident that the album cover depicted the band hanging out at a sports bar. These weren’t just the kind of guys who people wanted to hang out with; this felt like the local bar band which drew crowds week after week because they guaranteed a fun evening.

The group’s next album, 1986’s Fore!, would garner even greater chart success. It would spend one week atop the Billboard album charts, but send five singles to the top ten. Two of those, “Stuck with You” and “Jacob’s Ladder”, went to #1. However, the album’s three million in sales was less than half the seven million which Sports moved. In addition, Sports ranks as one of the top 1000 albums of all time according to Dave’s Music Database.



Click photo for more about the album.



Resources:
  • Huey Lewis & the News’ DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry




  • Saturday, June 2, 1984

    Prince charted with “When Doves Cry”: June 2, 1984

    Originally posted June 2, 2012.

    image from sixmeatbuffet.com

    This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at DavesMusicDatabase.com as a standard book or ebook!

    True to his nature, Prince never stops making music. Consequently, with his largely autobiographical film Purple Rain and its soundtrack seemingly finished, Prince added a new song at the last minute: “When Doves Cry.” RS500 Not a bad addition, since it may well be “the most influential single record of the eighties.” MA

    As is often the case with great singles, the structure of the song is “simple and natural and utterly (invisibly) unorthodox.” WI After recording it, Prince erased the bass, RS500 an unheard of move, especially in the R&B genre. CR Along with its “keening melody and one of the strangest choruses in pop,” MC the resulting song is eccentric, even by Prince standards, RS500 “but as a piece of rhythm and harmony, this is not just an important record but a great one.” MA


    When Doves Cry

    Prince’s record company, Warner Bros., wasn’t sure what to make of the song. As engineer David Z. said, “They were a little afraid...they didn’t know what to do with it because it was drastically different.” CR

    The record-buying public, however, knew what to do with it. In the U.S., the song became Prince’s first, and biggest, number one. It also was the biggest single of 1984. RS500 It also helped Prince become a superstar as it kick-started the Purple Rain soundtrack into blockbuster mode. Led by “When Doves Cry,” the album also produced the chart-topping “Let’s Go Crazy,” the #2 title cut, and the top ten hit “I Would Die 4 U,” all on its way toward spending 24 weeks atop the U.S. album charts. The album has sold 13 million stateside and another 8 million around the world.


    Awards:


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