Saturday, April 30, 1983

“Beat It” became Michael Jackson’s second #1 from Thriller

Beat It

Michael Jackson

Writer(s): Michael Jackson (see lyrics here)


Released: February 3, 1983


First Charted: February 26, 1983


Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 11 RR, 11 RB, 14 AR, 3 UK, 13 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 5.5 US, 0.5 UK, 7.95 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 999.52 video, 772.26 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Michael Jackson was already a star before 1982’s Thriller, but the one-two punch of “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” from that album sent him into the superstar stratosphere. Only a one-week run by Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen” prevented “Beat It” from bumping “Billie Jean” from the top of the U.S. pop charts. It was the first time since the Beatles knocked themselves from #1 in 1964 that an artist followed one chart-topper so quickly with another. FB

More importantly, the song “rocked more than anything else Jackson had ever done,” RS500 largely because it “mated the top pop hero of revitalized Top 40…with Edward Van Halen, guitar king of heavy metal.” MA He refused pay for his services, unless one counts the two six-packs of beer producer Quincy Jones brought to him in the studio. SF Eddie told Q magazine in 2009 that he thought, “maybe Michael will give me dance lessons someday” SF and informed Musician magazine, “I didn’t care, I did it as a favor.” FB

That favor gave Michael garnered a rarity for a black, R&B/pop artist – airplay on album-rock stations. The song also snagged a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal. Jackson said, “I wanted to write the type of rock song that I would go out and buy…but also something totally different from the rock music I was hearing on Top Forty radio.” RS500

Also crucial to promoting “Beat It” to iconic status was its video. With “Billie Jean” the King of Pop broke down the racial barriers of the new video era. With “Beat It” he became the king of the video, giving viewers a mini-movie version of West Side Story with rival gangs facing off in a choreographed rumble. The dancing drew raves from Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, and Fred Astaire. FB


Resources:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Michael Jackson
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 571.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 351.


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Last updated 10/22/2022.

Muddy Waters died: April 30, 1983

Originally posted April 30, 2012.

McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, was born on 4/4/1915 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. Some sources indicate his birth year as 1913, but the bio on MuddyWaters.com cites 1915. He died on April 30, 1983.

Waters ranks second only to Robert Johnson as the top blues acts of all time. Waters was pivotal in the development of the Chicago blues style. He taught himself to play harmonica in the early 1920s and picked up guitar in the early 1930s.

Among his most significant songs are “I Feel Like Going Home” (1948), “Rollin’ Stone” (1950), “Hoochie Coochie Man” (1954), and “Got My Mojo Working” (1957). All have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The latter three and “Mannish Boy” also made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. “Hoochie Coochie” is also in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress and made NPR’s list of the Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century. “Mojo” is also among the RIAA’s selections for the RIAA’s 365 songs of the 20th century.

Hoochie Coochie Man

Best of (1954), Down on Stovall’s Plantation (1966), McKinley Morganfield (aka “Muddy Waters”) (1971), The Chess Box (1972), Can’t Get No Grindin’ (1973), and The Complete Plantation Recordings (1993) are all Blues Hall of Fame inductees. In addition, Time magazine named The Anthology 1947-1972 (1947-72) one of the Top 100 Albums of All Time.

His most celebrated album is At Newport, a live album from 1960. It makes the DMDB’s lists of top 1000 albums of all time, Top 10 Blues Albums of All Time, and the top 50 live albums of all time. It also ranks as one of the 100 Greatest American Albums according to Blender magazine and one of the 100 Essential Albums of the Century according to Vibe magazine.


Awards:


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Friday, April 29, 1983

Men at Work released Cargo

Cargo

Men at Work


Released: April 29, 1983


Peak: 3 US, 8UK, 3 CN, 12 AU


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.72 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop rock/new wave


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive (10/82, 28 US, 12 AR, 31 UK, 26 CN, 6 AU)
  2. Overkill (4/9/83, 3 US, 3 AR, 6 AC, 21 UK, 6 CN, 5 AU)
  3. Settle Down My Boy
  4. Upstairs in My House
  5. No Sign of Yesterday
  6. It’s a Mistake (6/83, 6 US, 27 AR, 10 AC, 33 UK, 26 CN, 34 AU)
  7. High Wire (1983, 23 AR, 89 AU)
  8. Blue for You
  9. I Like To
  10. No Restrictions


Total Running Time: 42:21


The Players:

  • Colin Hay (vocals, guitar)
  • Greg Ham (flute, keyboards, saxophone, vocals)
  • Ron Strykert (guitar, vocals)
  • John Rees (bass, backing vocals)
  • Jerry Speiser (drums, backing vocals)

Rating:

3.823 out of 5.00 (average of 6 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

The Australian new wave band Men at Work debuted in 1981 with Business As Usual. It took a year for it to catch on in the United States, but when it did it exploded. “Who Can It Be Now?” hit #1 in 1982 and “Down Under” ascended to the throne in early 1983. The two songs fueled Business As Usual to the top of Billboard album chart for 15 weeks.

Meanwhile, Men at Work already had Cargo waiting in the wings. They’d finished the album in mid-’82, but held off releasing it because of the success of Business As Usual. When Cargo dropped in 1983, the former album was still riding high on the charts.

The first single, Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive, was released in Australia in October 1982, although it would be nearly a year later before it saw a U.S. release. The song was accompanied by a video which played to Men at Work’s reputation as an act known for entertaining, humorous videos. Greg Ham played a mad scientist who creates a potion that transforms him into a ladies’ man.

In the U.S. the song was preceded by two Men at Work top-10 hits. Overkill was released in April 1983 and showed some more dimension to the band. The song had a more serious tone than the light-hearted pop fare of “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under,” though it dealt with paranoia again, as had “Who Can It Be Now?”

It’s a Mistake also tapped into a more serious vibe with lyrics focused on the mindset of military men and the prospects of nuclear war. The video played up the band’s charisma with a story in which each member move from roles in the working world to unexpected roles in the military, suggesting they’d been drafted. The storyline seemed to be somewhat modeled after Dr. Strangelove, a black comedy film from 1964.

Rolling Stone’s Christopher Connelly wrote that the album “may lack a track with the body-slamming intensity of ‘Who Can It Be Now?’ and ‘Down Under,’ but song for song, it is a stronger overall effort than Business As Usual.” WK All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said “Overkill” and “It’s a Mistake” had “more depth than anything on the debut” WK but that the rest of the album was “weighed down by filler.” WK John Mendelssohn of Record had little positive to say about the album, other than “Colin Hay may be the most effortlessly soulful pop singer since Sting.” WK


Notes: A 2003 reissue added bonus tracks “Shintaro” and “Till the Money Runs Out,” and live versions of “Upstairs in My House,” “Fallin’ Down,” and “The Longest Night.”

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First posted 9/20/2020; last updated 8/2/2021.

Saturday, April 16, 1983

Journey “Faithfully” charted

Faithfully

Journey

Writer(s): Jonathan Cain (see lyrics here)


First Charted: April 16, 1983


Peak: 12 US, 15 CB, 4 RR, 24 AC, 36 CN, 5 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 278.85 video, 165.06 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Classic Rock magazine’s Paul Elliott called this the greatest power ballad ever recorded. Dave’s Music Database won’t go quite that far, but it does rank as one of the top 20 power ballads of all time. It also ranks as one of the top 30 love songs of all time. Nate Larson of HuffPost ranked it the seventh-best love song of all time. WK

Journey’s own “Open Arms,” a #2 hit from the year before and a song which also makes both Dave’s Music Database lists, is one of the songs that carved out the template for power ballads in the 1980s. During the 1970s, groups like Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Foreigner built loyal followings with constant touring and a presence on album-rock radio. All four then experienced the biggest hits of their careers in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with slower-tempo love songs – the kind that evoked stadiums full of rockers to lift their lighters in synchronicization.

Keyboardist Jonathan Cain wrote the song about the challenges of being a married man on the road with a rock band. Appropriately, he wrote the song while the band was on tour. He jotted down the initial lyric “highway run into the midnight sun” on a tour bus while headed to Saratoga Springs, New York, and finished the song the next day in just a half hour. He said, “I’d never had a song come to me so quickly.” WK The band performed it for the first time at the Sarotga Performing Arts Center. WK The eventual video for the song featured footage of the band on the road and onstage.

When Prince recorded “Purple Rain” in early 1984, he called Cain because he was worried the chord changes were too similar to “Faithfully.” Prince played the song for Cain, saying “I don’t want you to sue me.” Cain reassured him it was fine and said, “I’m just super-flattered that you even called. It shows you’re that classy of a guy. Good luck with the song. I know it’s gonna be a hit.” BB


Resources:


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First posted 7/7/2022.

Wednesday, April 13, 1983

Violent Femmes’ debut released

Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes


Released: April 13, 1983


Peak: 171 US, -- UK, -- CN, 31 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: new wave/alternative rock


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Blister in the Sun [2:24]
  2. Kiss Off [2:56]
  3. Please Do Not Go [4:15]
  4. Add It Up [4:43]
  5. Confessions [5:32]
  6. Prove My Love [2:38]
  7. Promise [2:49]
  8. To the Kill [4:00]
  9. Gone Daddy Gone [3:06]
  10. Good Feeling [3:52]

All songs written by Gordon Gano.


Total Running Time: 36:15


The Players:

  • Gordon Gano (vocals, guitar)
  • Brian Ritchie (guitar, xylophone, backing vocals)
  • Victor DeLorenzo (drums, backing vocals)

Rating:

4.388 out of 5.00 (average of 12 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“One of the most distinctive records of the early alternative movement and an enduring cult classic, Violent Femmes weds the geeky, child-man persona of Jonathan Richman and the tense, jittery, hyperactive feel of new wave in an unlikely context: raw, amateurish acoustic folk-rock. The music also owes something to the Modern Lovers’ minimalism, but powered by Brian Ritchie’s busy acoustic bass riffing and the urgency and wild abandon of punk rock, the Femmes forged a sound all their own.” AMG

“Still, the main reason Violent Femmes became the preferred soundtrack for the lives of many an angst-ridden teenager is lead singer and songwriter Gordon Gano. Naive and childish one minute, bitterly frustrated and rebellious the next, Gano's vocals perfectly captured the contradictions of adolescence and the difficulties of making the transition to adulthood.” AMG

“Clever lyrical flourishes didn’t hurt either; while Blister in the Sun has deservedly become a standard, Kiss Off’s chant-along ‘count-up’ section, Add It Up’s escalating ‘Why can't I get just one...’ couplets, and Gimme the Car’s profanity-obscuring guitar bends ensured that Gano's intensely vulnerable confessions of despair and maladjustment came off as catchy and humorous as well.” AMG

“Even if the songwriting slips a bit on occasion, Gano's personality keeps the music engaging and compelling without overindulging in his seemingly willful naiveté. For the remainder of their career, the group would only approach this level in isolated moments.” AMG


Notes: The CD release added the songs “Ugly” and “Gimme the Car.” In 2002, a deluxe edition was released that contained a whopping 26 bonus tracks, among them demos and live material of songs both from the album and not.

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First posted 3/24/2008; last updated 9/5/2021.

Violent Femmes “Add It Up” released on debut album

Add It Up

Violent Femmes

Writer(s): Gordon Gano (see lyrics here)


Released: April 13, 1983 (on Violent Femmes album)


Peak: 2 CO, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 7.7 video, 25.88 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The punk band Violent Femmes formed in Madison, Wisconsin in 1979. The trio was comprised of singer and guitarist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie, and drummer Victor DeLorenzo. In 1983, they released their self-titled debut album, “an early landmark of American alternative rock.” AMG While the song “Blister in the Sun” became the best known from the album by cementing itself as a staple of alternative rock radio in the ‘80s, the album also produced the popular “Add It Up.”

The song benefits from Gano’s “uncanny knack for clever, incessantly catchy lyrics.” AMG The song plays on his “yearning, hard-luck misfit role that dominated the album, but it’s even darker than usual, with its frank, edgy sexuality and intimations of gun violence.” AMG He sings “with such snarling abandon that, in spite of the obvious geekiness of his persona, there’s also an unsettling sense of menace.” AMG

“Opening with a free-form a cappella passage, the song quickly becomes a driving rocker, and Gano steadily escalates his sexual longings (‘why can’t I get just one...’) from ‘kiss’ to ‘screw’ to ‘fuck.’ Even the first scenario is far from romantic – I look at your pants and I need a kiss,’ Gano sings, giving the lie to the assumption that innocence and inexperience go hand in hand.” AMG

Gano discussed writing the song in his bedroom about feeling frustrated. As he said, “I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. It just happened to feel good lyrically…and it still does.” WK Despite the song’s irrestible drive to get up and move, the subject matter is dark. It isn’t just about sexual frustration, but a young man who buys a gun, offering “evidence that misfit rage had long been something of a powder keg in American high schools” more than 15 years before Columbine. AMG The lines “The day is in my sights / When I’ll take a bow / And say good night” suggests the narrator may have turned that rage inward to suicidal thoughts. AMG


Resources:


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First posted 6/10/2022; last updated 10/1/2022.