Saturday, December 21, 1985

Bing Crosby charted with “Silent Night” fifty years ago today (12/21/1935)

First posted 7/8/2012; updated 1/25/2020.

Silent Night

Bing Crosby with the Guardsmen Quartette

Writer(s):Joseph Muhr/Franz Gruber (see lyrics here)


First Charted: December 21, 1935


Peak: 7 US, 30 HR, 19 GA, 8 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 30.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, -- video, -- streaming

Awards:

Review:

We might never have heard this popular Christmas carol if it hadn’t been for mice rendering a church organ useless. Popular accounts have suggested that mice ate out the bellows of the organ SF at Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria. WK Father Joseph Mohr was concerned about having music for the 1818 Christmas Eve service. He’d written a poem called “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” and presented it to his friend Franz Xaver Gruber, a headmaster and amateur composer, hoping he could do something with it for guitar. SF The pair gave the first public performance of the song with only Mohr’s guitar accompaniment at the service. SF

Since then, the song has become one of the most popular in the world, having been translated into more than 44 languages. WK However, it is John Freeman Young’s English translation published in 1859 that is the most frequently sung today. WK

It became the most recorded song of the first half of the 20th century. PM In Britain, it is the most recorded Christmas song of all time. SF To date, it has been recorded by more than 300 artists including Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, Boyz II Men, Stevie Nicks, Tori Amos, Mannheim Steamroller, Mahalia Jackson, Andrea Bocelli, Sinead O’Connor, and Brad Paisley. WK

The best known version is the 1935 recording by Bing Crosby with sales estimated as high as 30 million. PM Bing proved to be successful with a few other tunes as well; he sold over 300 million records with well over 300 charted songs over 35 years time (1928-63) and landed 36 songs at #1, more than any other recording act in history. PM


Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, October 19, 1985

A-ha hit #1 with “Take on Me”

First posted 11/2/2019.

Take on Me

a-ha

Writer(s): Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket, Pål Waaktaar (see lyrics here)


Released: October 19, 1984


First Charted: July 13, 1985


Peak: 11 US, 12 CB, 13 RR, 4 AC, 2 UK, 2 CN, 12 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 1.46 US, 0.5 UK, 7.0 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: 4.0


Video Airplay *: 951.32


Streaming *: 482.00


* in millions

Review:

Magne “Mags” Furuholmen and Pål Waaktaar became friends at 12 years old in the Oslo, Norway suburb where they grew up. They met singer Morten Harket while playing school dances and club dates in a band called Britches. The trio eventually went to London where, in 1983, they started shopping demo tapes to record companies. They eventually caught the attention of John Ratcliff, the studio manager where a-ha worked. Ratcliff and Terry Slater, formerly of EMI, offered to manage the band and arranged a showcase which included executies from RCA, CBS, EMI, and Warner Brothers – the latter of whom signed the band. BR1 Originally the trio wanted a Norwegian name which people could say in English. However, when Mags saw a song in Pål’s notebook called “A-ha” it seemed like a great name. BR1

The band first recorded “Take on Me” in 1984. It reached #3 in Norway, but didn’t gain an international audience. The group went back to the studio to re-record the song at Slater’s suggestion. Producer Alan Tarney “beefed it up with more instrumentation and energy.” SF The resulting synthpop tune combined keyboards, a drum machine, and acoustic guitars with Harket’s voices reaching higher notes throughout the song. WK

In the United States, Jeff Ayeroff championed the song at Warner Bros. and commissioned a new video for it. He hired Steve Barron, who did the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” to direct. SF He crafted a revolutionary video which combined live action and pencil-sketch animation. The roughly 3000 rotoscaped frames took 16 weeks to complete. WK It caught fire, garnering heavy rotation on MTV and eventually winning six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. As of September 2019, the video still gets about a half million views a day. WK It ranks as one of the top three videos of all-time according to Dave’s Music Database, behind only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”

The video helped the song achieve international success. It finally charted in the UK, hitting #2. It went to #1 on the Eurochart for 9 weeks and topped the singles charts in 36 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Swden, and Switzerland. WK The song has been described by All Music Guide’s Tim DiGravina as “a new wave classic.” WK


Resources and Related Links:

Awards:


Saturday, September 21, 1985

Dire Straits hit #1 with “Money for Nothing”

First posted 11/14/2019.

Money for Nothing

Dire Straits

Writer(s): Mark Knopfler, Sting (see lyrics here)


Released: June 24, 1985


First Charted: June 1, 1985


Peak: 13 US, 14 CB, 13 RR, 13 AR, 4 UK, 11 CN, 4 AU
(Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: -- US, 0.4 UK, 0.45 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 150.2


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

“Money for Nothing” owes its existence to an appliance store. Dire Straits’ frontman Mark Knopfler and his wife Lourdes were shopping for kitchen supplies. They overheard a delivery man commenting on the wall of television sets tuned to MTV. He said things like, “That ain’t workin’” and that these artists got “money for nothing and chicks for free.” WK Knopfler sat down at a table in the store to write down some of the actual comments. As he said, “I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used…It just went better with the song. It was more muscular.” BR1

One line about “that little faggot with the earring and the make-up” generated controversy. Knopfler commented on the attacks that the song was homophobic. “An editor of Gay News attacked the song. What surprises me is that an intelligent journalist can misunderstand it.” Knopfler also said, “The same thing happened when Randy Newman recorded ‘Short People,’ a song that was clearly about the stupidity of prejudice.” BR1

The video played up that idea, featuring computer-animated versions of two working-class guys commenting on music videos. It was considered groundbreaking for its early use of computer animation and won MTV’s Video of the Year award. The director, Steve Barron, also helmed A-ha’s “Take on Me,” another widely celebrated video for its innovative use of animation. “Money for Nothing” was the first video played on MTV Europe when the network launched on August 1, 1987. WK

Sting got a reluctant credit on the song. The band were recording in Montserrat. The bassist, John Illsley, said Sting was there windsurfing “and he came up for supper at the studio. We played him ‘Money for Nothing’” and Mark suggested Sting add something to it. WK Sting contributed the classic “I want my MTV” lines, sung to the melody of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” by his band The Police. For that, Sting’s publishing company insisted he get a share of the profits from the song. Illsley relayed that “Sting said that it was completely ridiculous, but you know what record companies are like.” BR1


Resources and Related Links:

Awards:


Thursday, September 19, 1985

The PMRC Senate Hearings: September 19, 1985

Originally posted September 19, 2012.

Frank Zappa testifying at the PMRC hearings, image from vulture.com

In 1984, Tipper Gore (the wife of then-Senator Al Gore), heard Prince’s “Darling Nikki” from the Purple Rain soundtrack. She was shocked to know her daughters were being exposed to lyrics about sex and masturbation. When she watched other rock music videos, she was alarmed by the images of what she deemed graphic sex and violence. In 1985, she teamed with several other Washington wives to form the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). The other founders were Susan Baker, the wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, the wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howard; and Sally Nevius, the wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The group eventually grew to 22 participants.

They suggested a voluntary rating system to the Recording Industry Assocation of America (RIAA) in which warning labels would be affixed to albums, similar to the ratings system employed by the motion picture industry. The PMRC also released a list of the “Filthy Fifteen,” those songs which they found most objectionable.

The Filthy Fifteen

In August 1985, 19 record companies agreed to put labels reading “Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics” on albums deemed to have explicit lyrical content. In addition, the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee agreed to a special hearing on the issue. In addition to members of the PMRC, musicians Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, and John Denver testified, saying the move was a form of censorship which undermined freedom of speech.

The Senate committee was reportedly surprised by how articulate the musicians were. As Snider said, “They had no idea I spoke English fluently.” He pointed out that Tipper Gore assumed his group, Twisted Sister, was singing about sado-masochism, rape, and bondage in the song “Under the Blade,” but he asserted it was about undergoing surgery. Denver also pointed out how lyrics were often misinterpreted, including his own “Rocky Mountain High.” Zappa noted, “No one has forced Mrs. Baker or Mrs. Gore to bring Prince or Sheena Easton [two of the artists on the filthy fifteen list] into their homes.”

The PMRC Hearings (full)


Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, July 13, 1985

Live Aid: July 13, 1985

Originally posted July 13, 2011.



On July 13, 1985, an estimated 1.9 billion people in 150 nations watched the broadcast of Live Aid. It “was the most ambitious international satellite television venture that had ever been attempted at the time“. WK Musicians Bob Geldof and Midge Ure organized the star-studded concerts, held simultaneously in London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium. The two venues attracted 72,000 and 100,000 fans respectively.

Geldof, best known for the U.K. #1 song “I Don’t Like Mondays” with his group the Boomtown Rats, was dismayed by the plight of starving Ethiopians after seeing a BBC documentary. Determined to make a difference, he had assembled some of Britain’s biggest musical stars the previous winter for the charity recording “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, written by Geldof and Ure. The song became, at the time, the best-selling record ever in the UK. HE

Highlights included reunions of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. U2’s performance, “established them as a pre-eminent live group for the first time”. WK Queen’s 20-minute set has been called “the greatest live performance in the history of rock music”. WK



Also of note were Paul McCartney’s performance of “Let It Be”, followed by an all-star gathering to close out the London concert with “Christmas”. Stateside, the concert closed with the U.S. response to that song, USA for Africa’s “We Are the World”.

A planned duet between Mick Jagger and David Bowie – one on each coast – had to be scrapped because it was too complicated. Instead, they recorded a duet version of Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” and the video was shown at both venues. Phil Collins made news by performing at both venues. He hopped a Concorde after his Wembley appearance and jetted overseas to Philadelphia.




Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, June 29, 1985

Marillion Misplaced Childhood hit #1 in UK

Originally posted 6/29/2011. Last updated 2/26/2019.

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
  1. Pseudo Silk Kimono [2:13]
  2. Kayleigh [3:54] (4/7/85, #74 US, #2 UK, #14 AR)
  3. Lavender [2:33] (8/27/85, #5 UK)
  4. Bitter Suite [7:53]
    i. Brief Encounter
    ii. Lost Weekend
    iii. Blue Angel
    iv. Misplaced Rendezvous
    v. Windswept Thumb
  5. Heart of Lothian [4:08] (11/18/85, #29 UK)
    i. Wide Boy
    ii. Curtain Call
  6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo [2:07]
  7. Lords of the Backstage [1:57]
  8. Blind Curve [9:29]
    i. Vocal Under a Bloodlight
    ii. Passing Strangers
    iii. Mylo
    iv. Perimeter Walk
    v. Threshold
  9. Childhood’s End? [4:32]
  10. White Feather [2:23]

All songs written by Dick/ Kelly/ Mosley/ Rothery/ Trewavas.

Released: June 17, 1985


Charted: June 29, 1985


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 0.8 world (includes US and UK)


Peak: 47 US, 11 UK


Genre: neo-progressive rock


Review:

My favorite album of all time is Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood. Europeans who grew up in the 1980s may know the album. Fans of neo-prog rock may know the album. However, the general American public is clueless to its existence. On June 29, 1985, it debuted at #1 on the UK charts. It would be two more months before it even scraped the U.S. Billboard album charts, peaking at #47.

Marillion had been pegged as a neo-prog band which couldn’t escape comparisons to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. They were seemingly destined for a similar career path devoid of mainstream success. Their first single, “Market Square Heroes,” scraped the bottom of the British charts at an unforgettable #60 in October 1982. Their debut album, 1983’s Script for a Jester’s Tear, soared into the top ten, as with the follow-up album and a live album after that, but comparable success with singles alluded them.

That all changed with Kayleigh, the lead-off single for Misplaced Childhood. The song’s theme of remorse over splitting with an ex-lover made for a topic of widespread relatability. The song hit the UK singles chart in May and climbed to #2 the week ending June 15. It didn’t grace American charts until August when it hit the Billboard rock charts and peaked at #14. In October, the song reached the pop charts as well, hitting #74.

I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1985. One’s teen and young adult years typically coincide with the period in life of greatest musical discovery. I was no exception. I soaked it up the tastes of my peers exploring musical genres that moved beyond my then-Top 40-leaning tastes. In branching out to more album-oriented rock, I heard the song “Kayleigh” and was sucked in. Fish, the band’s frontman, had penned what appeared to be an ironically bouncy pop ditty about lost love. It certainly had catchy lines:

Kayleigh, I never thought I’d miss you
And Kayleigh, I’d hoped that we’d always be friends
We said our love would last forever
So how did it come to this bitter end?

However, it was also infused with Fish’s typically poignant twists and sophisticated way with words:

Do you remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall?
Do you remember dawn escaped from moon-washed college halls?
Do you remember the cherry blossoms in the market square?
Do you remember I thought it was confetti in our hair?
By the way, didn’t I break your heart?


Click to see the full set of lyrics.

It grew on me and by Christmas I was geared up to plunge into the whole album. For you young’ns, music discovery in 1985 wasn’t as simple as pulling up a bands website or trolling YouTube for video clips. In pre-Internet days, I couldn’t listen to music before buying it. I was wary. Who was this group? Would I like their other songs? I’d never bought an album solely on the basis of one song. I had to take a leap of faith.

Over Christmas break, I kept wandering into a Camelot music store to check out the album. Ah, yes. Once upon a time people actually bought music in stores – and in malls, no less! The cover art fascinated me. It looked like an album I wanted to hear.

Once I’d liberated my wallet of a few dollars and brought the Misplaced critter home, I was immediately entranced. A room-filling keyboard sound opened the album, segueing into the intriguing words “huddled in the safety of a pseudo silk kimono…” half-sung and half-spoken by Fish. This purchase was one risk I would not regret.

Psuedo Silk Kimono flowed into “Kayleigh,” which was followed by Lavender, which was released as the album’s second single and hit the top 5 in the UK. Marillion’s new-found success gave them their best shot at stardom on American shores (alas, it didn’t happen) when they landed an opening stint for Rush.

The first half of the album also contained Heart of Lothian, which was released as the third single and hit the top 30 on the UK singles chart.

I’m pretty close to illiterate when it comes to grasping music theory, so I have no intelligent insight into why this album grabbed me instrumentally or vocally. I’ve just had to rely on gut instinct. Does the album’s overall sound work for me? It did here – in spades.

What made Childhood a regular fixture in my tape deck was its overall concept and witty lyricism. Fish crafted a story which explored well-worn themes of a relationship gone sour, a country ravaged by war, a man dipping into the abyss, and the disappearance of self at the hands of the rock-n-roll lifestyle. Part of the uniqueness stemmed from the conceit of tackling all these ideas at once. The other surprise of the album, however, was its unexpectedly hopeful finale – drug-induced, no less – of recovery via a return to childhood innocence.

Childhood dares to traverse the dangerous ground of “concept album,” going so far as to not even insert breaks between songs. Like classic conceptual works such as The Who’s Tommy, GenesisThe Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the album can draw critical fire for feeling bloated and sacrificing songs in favor of ideas. However, when it comes to art, critics be damned. Fall in love with whatever you like and don’t feel obligated to justify it to anyone.

To my ears, Misplaced Childhood is a cohesive, focused, and seemingly autobiographical effort that takes the listener on a rollercoaster ride through the initial depression of a breakup, the subsequent acid-induced fall into the abyss, and the final realization that, as he sings in Childhood’s End?, “I can do anything and still the child/’cos the only thing misplaced was direction and I found direction/There is no childhood’s end.”

The album shines brightest the middle, when the album’s focal character is falling apart. In Blind Curve Fish sings, “it’s getting late for scribbling and scratching on the paper/Something’s gonna give under the pressure/And the cracks are already beginning to show/It’s too late.” In Lords of the Backstage, Fish explores the burden of maintaining a relationship under the stress of becoming a rock star, stating “a lifestyle with no simplicities, but I’m not asking for your sympathies/Talk, we never could talk, distanced by all that was between us/A lord of the backstage, a creature of language/I’m so far out and I’m too far in.”

With Misplaced Childhood, Marillion not only pulls off their master stroke, but creates a classic that even the most celebrated bands would struggle to top.


Review Source(s):


Awards:


Monday, May 13, 1985

Dire Straits released Brothers in Arms: May 13, 1985

image from nerve.com

Originally posted 5/13/2012. Updated 5/13/2013.


Released: 13 May 1985
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. So Far Away 2. Money for Nothing 3. Walk of Life 4. Your Latest Trick 5. Why Worry 6. Ride Across the River 7. The Man’s Too Strong 8. One World 9. Brothers in Arms

Sales (in millions): 9.0 US, 4.15 UK, 32.6 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 19 US, 114 UK

Rating:


Review: “Dire Straits were fortunate enough to be the right band at the right time with the right product to benefit fro a new music medium.” TB At a time when most albums were still recorded on analog equipment, Arms was recorded digitally making it a “must-have record for serious audiophiles.” ZS It was “the first album to sell one million copies in the CD format and to outsell its LP version.” WK “Industry insiders suggested everyone who owned a CD player also owned a copy of this disc.” PR

Brothers in Arms brought the atmospheric, jazz-rock inclinations of Love Over Gold into a pop setting, resulting in a surprise international best-seller.” AMG The album topped the charts in 25 countries. TB One of the keys to their success “was that their music wasn’t too dynamic, nor demanding.” PR “It rocks – but not too much – and it doesn’t scream at you, so millions who would normally never buy a rock album bought it.” TB “Knopfler’s laid-back guitar licks looked back to Clapton, Rory Gallagher, and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull” PR and “his mid-Atlantic drawl reminded older fans of J.J. Cale, Springsteen, and Bob Dylan” PR positioning Knopfler s “an unpretentious Man Of The People.” TB

Money for Nothing

“Of course, the success of Brothers in Arms was helped considerably by the clever computer-animated video for Money for Nothing.” WK With its “indelible guitar riff,” AMG the “harmonic-popping distant relative of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’” TB and “the album’s liveliest track” TB was a #1 hit. The song grew out of overhearing a “New York appliance salesman's anti-rock-star, anti-MTV rant.” RS Ironically, it became one of the most played videos of all time. “It is the only Dire Straits song on a studio album to not be solely credited to Mark Knopfler. Sting was given a co-writing credit because his vocal hook, ‘I want my MTV,’ is the same melody as The Police’s ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me.’” WK

On the first half of the record, Dire Straits sported “their unique brand of arena rock” WK via “incisive songwriting and lush guitar riffs on Walk of Life and So Far Away.” RS “The second half consists of more folk-influenced material” WK with “an enduring and unassuming appeal.” PR The title track “is one of Knopfler’s greatest moments. Refusing to show off, he wrests from the Les Paul something magisterial. Rarely has the electric guitar possessed such dignity.” TB

Brothers in Arms

“The whole album maintains the original Dire Straits’ bluesy and laid back guitar-based sound whilst retaining a more lavish and bombastic production and overall sound.” WK It “remains one of their most focused and accomplished albums, and in its succinct pop sense, it’s distinctive within their catalog.” AMG It “perfectly evokes its period (great for flashbacks to Miami Vice) with a terrific mix of commercial pop…and musical exploration crafted in an atmosphere of power and mystery.” ZS


Resources and Related Links:


Award(s):