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The 1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1980s – 880 to 871

880.  “Jokerman,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1984.   Whether or not the world had been waiting for a harmonica solo over a reggae groove, Dylan delivered those goods on the impenetrable “Jokerman.” Dylan, “’Jokerman’ kinda came to me in the (Caribbean) islands. It’s very mystical. The shapes there, and shadows, seem to be so ancient. The song was sorta inspired by these spirits they call jumbis.”  The Telegraph U.K., “Many of Dylan’s most devoted fans were alienated by the preachiness of Dylan’s born again Christian phase.  On ‘Jackerman’ he released himself back into a beautiful ambiguity that more perfectly distills the mysteries of faith. The Jokerman is Jesus, ‘born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing.’ With legendary Jamaican rhythm section Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare pulsing beneath Mark Knopfler’s silvery guitar, the track has a slipperiness that mirrors its audacious lyrical twists and turns.”

879.  “All Night Long (All Night)” Lionel Richie. Songwriter: Lionel Richie; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1983. Lionel Richie, “I’m one of those guys that – I don’t look for something new. I look for what people do everyday. And I noticed that, anytime I would come on vacation, everybody who can rap is on vacation doing a calypso dance. Everybody who’s singing opera, they conform to some form of calypso or some form of reggae. So when I went back to do ‘All Night Long’ it was very simple. All I had to do was find that beat that everybody dances to when they go on vacation. I called the UN and said ‘I need something African for the breakdown in this song I’m writing.’ They informed me that there are thousands of different African dialects. I couldn’t believe it. One region doesn’t have any idea what the other is taking about. So, ‘Tambo liteh sette mo-jah!’? I made it up on the spot. Even my own record company said to me, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ And I said, ‘Guys, I’ve traveled the world. This is the rhythm that the whole world dances to.”

878. “Hey Pocky Way,” The Neville Brothers. Songwriters: Ziggy Modeliste, Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr; Did Not Chart; 1981. “Hey Pocky Way” was first recorded as a multi-cultural piece of New Orleans funk by The Meters in 1974.  Meters bassist George Porter Jr., “Street music was the root of all the songs that got to be known as New Orleans rhythm and blues. For ‘Iko Iko’ and ‘Hey Pocky Way,’ the rhythm came from tambourines and cowbells and bottles – whatever they could find to beat on. Sugarboy (Crawford) and the Cane Cutters recorded ‘Jock-A-Mo’ in 1954. That was the basis for ‘Iko Iko’ and ‘Hey Pocky Way,’ then everything else just fell into place.” The Neville Brothers version is more uptempo and has a more commercial sound, but maintains the party atmosphere.  The Grateful Dead often played “Hey Pocky Way” at live gigs during the late 1980s, sounding more like Pat Boone than Dr. John.

877.  “19,” Paul Hardcastle. Songwriters: Paul Hardcastle, William Coutourie, Jonas McCord; #15; 1985. British electronic musician Paul Hardcastle revisited the Vietnam War with dance music and documentary soundbites for the international #1 hit “19.”  Hardcastle, “What struck me was how young the soldiers were: the (‘Vietnam Requiem’) documentary said their average age was 19. I was out having fun in pubs and clubs when I was 19, not being shoved into jungles and shot at. One line – ‘None of them received a hero’s welcome’ – really struck a chord. When the soldiers came home, people wondered what had happened to the smiling kids who went out there. What did they expect if they’d been through that shit?”

876.  “Kiss Me, Son of God,” They Might Be Giants. Songwriters: John Linnell, John Flansburgh; Did Not Chart; 1988.  “Kiss Me, Son of God” is a short jazz lounge/chamber pop tune, and perhaps a paean to Judas, where They Might Be Giants declare, “I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage/Called the blood of the exploited working class/But they’ve overcome their shyness/Now they’re calling me ‘Your Highness’ and a world screams, ‘Kiss me, Son of God.’” Rock critic Stewart Mason, “John Linnell and John Flansburgh’s harmonized dual lead vocals are supported by the Ordinaires, a New Jersey-based avant-chamber music ensemble. The arrangement, mostly low strings, accordion and an acoustic bass part consisting entirely of ponging eighth notes, accentuates how conventionally pretty the melody is, and the Johns sing the sarcastically megalomaniacal lyrics in choirboy-sweet, winsome voices, which help to underscore their snarky irony.”

875.  “Solid,” Ashford & Simpson. Songwriters: Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson; #12 pop/#1 R&B; 1984.  Ashford & Simpson were best known for the string of hits they wrote in the late 1960s for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Your Precious Love,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.”  As a recording duo, they released ten Top Ten R&B singles from 1978 to 1989, with their biggest crossover pop hit being 1984’s “Solid.”  Nickolas Ashford in 2006, “I was shocked when ‘Solid’ became a hit.  I loved the song but I didn’t think it would rise to the height it rose. It was just interesting to me. And now it’s like our, it’s like our anthem. We can’t leave the stage before we sing that.”  “Solid” has become a victory lap celebration for long term monogamists.

874.  “Geoffrey Ingram,” Television Personalities. Songwriter: Don Treacy; Did Not Chart; 1981. The Television Personalities formed in London in 1977 and first gained attention in their homeland with the plucky amateurism of “Part Time Punks” in 1980.  “Geoffrey Ingram,” from the 1981 album “…And Don’t the Kids Just Love It” features a typically deadpan vocal delivery by Don Treacy as he describes a new David Watts for the post punk era.  From an online blogger (with original punctuation), “The descending guitar riff is very Beat Happening-ish and makes me want to go have fun at a day on the beach! (though it will just end up being the shitty lake about 50 miles north of here.  landlocked state lifestyle forever)”

873.  “Atomic,” Blondie. Songwriters: Debby Harry, Jimmy Destri; #39 pop; 1980.  This #1 U.K. pop hit featured Robert Fripp of King Crimson on guitar and 60’s songwriter Ellie Greenwich provided backing vocals.  Debbie Harry, “Jimmy Destri was trying to do something like ‘Heart of Glass,’ and then somehow or another we gave it the spaghetti western treatment. Before that it was just lying there like a lox. The lyrics, well, a lot of the time I would write while the band were just playing the song and trying to figure it out. I would just be scatting along with them and I would just start going, ‘Ooooooh, your hair is beautiful.’”  Blondie often charted higher with their singles in the U.K. including “Atomic,” (#1, 1980) “Denis” (#2, 1978), “Sunday Girl” (#1, 1979), and “Maria” (#1, 1999).

872.  “She Blinded Me with Science,” Thomas Dolby. Songwriters: Thomas Dolby, Jo Kerr; #5 pop; 1982.  Thomas Dolby was ahead of his time in 1982, developing a video music concept before writing the song “She Blinded Me with Science.”  Dolby, “I came up with a storyboard for a video. I’d recently seen a Japanese magazine awarding a Young Scientist of the Year in 1981. I took that as kind of amusing. If I was going to be a scientist, I’d need a hot Japanese lab assistant and I’d need a cool vintage motorcycle hat, kind of an homage to deranged scientists. I phoned up this famous TV scientist for the BBC, Dr. Magnus Pike (to appear in the video). The record execs liked the idea of the video, but said, “Where’s the song?” I said, ‘Oh, how about I bring it in on Monday morning?’ and went home over the weekend and did the first bit of the song.”

871.  “What I Am,” Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.  Songwriters: Edie Brickell, Kenny Withrow; #7 pop; 1989.  These Dallas hipsters mixed junior high school philosophy ramblings with a Jerry Garcia style guitar solo to become a fondly remembered one hit wonder act (and, perhaps unintentionally, to propel their singer into becoming Mrs. Paul Simon).  Brickell, “The lyrics came from my one elective in my first year in college, world religions. From the time I could first think, I wondered, ‘What does the rest of the world think?’ I know what these Texas folks think [laughs], but what’s going on in the rest of the world? So I took this world religions class, and I was immediately annoyed at the chatter going on in the classroom. To adopt behaviors, to adopt some sort of dogma, I felt defeated the purpose of evolution. That song just blossomed from irritation.”  There you have it, a rationalist earworm.

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