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The 1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1980s – 930 to 921

 

“You know my baby she say ‘hurt me, hurt me.’”

930.  “Stop in the Road,” John Anderson. Songwriter: Ronal McCown; Did Not Chart; 1981.  Songwriter Ronal McCown, who sometimes recorded as Ronnie Mack (not to be confused with the pop songwriter Ronnie Mack who penned “He’s So Fine,” the country Ronnie Mack, by contrast, released “Rednecks Need Lovin’ Too”), played piano for Mel Tellis and co-wrote several of his hits.  He was also a 400 pound whisky guzzler drunk who was taken into custody in 1983 for allegedly murdering his wife (bet you didn’t see that one coming).  He seems to have avoided a prison sentence, spending his later years as a penniless, roaming Texas sideman. John Anderson included one McCown number on each of his first four albums, including the 1980 #21 country hit/forgettable tearjecker “If There Were No Memories.”  The 1981 album track “Stop in the Road” is a bluegrass romp about putting bad memories in the rearview mirror.  The take no prisoners pace was a welcome change from the plodding country tempos of that era.

929.  “Hold on Tight,” Electric Light Orchestra. Songwriter: Jeff Lynne; #10 pop; 1981. Jeff Lynne executes a highly processed form of ‘50s boogie woogie and tosses in a French verse on “Hold on Tight,” ELO’s last Top Ten U.S. single. Jeff Lynne, “This is one of my jolliest songs, but I do like the sound of it.  Recorded in L.A. with the words translated by the French nanny on the day before the session.”  Lynne would replicate this new wave meets rockabilly sound on ELO’s 1983 hit “Rock ‘n Roll Is King” and would complete the decade reinventing himself as a producer for George Harrison, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty and working under the pseudonym Otis Wilbury.

928.  “Oh Sheila,” Ready for the World.  Songwriters: Melvin Riley, Jr., Gordon Strozier, Gerald Valentine; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1985.  This Flint, Michigan R&B act may have been signed to Motown in an earlier era, but they were workin’ for MCA when they topped the charts with this smartly produced Prince imitation.  Ready for the World couldn’t sustain the glamorous life despite the popping bass work.  Speaking of copycats, The Ohio band Zapp had less luck with their 1986 Prince homage “Itchin’ for Your Twitchin’,” (referenced solely for the title) which peaked at #81 on the R&B charts.

927.  “Baby Talks Dirty,” The Knack. Songwriters: Doug Fieger, Berton Averre; #38 pop; 1980.  When the Knack stormed the pop charts in 1979 with “My Sharona,” the rock press attacked them like a pack of bespectacled hyenas.  My God, this band was…derivative…and sexist!  The horror.  Doug Fieger responded by rewriting “Sharona” as “Baby Talks Dirty” for the 1980 album “…But the Little Girls Understand” with lyrics about how much his girlfriend enjoyed being slapped around.  Self-appointed moral arbiter Dave Marsh on the album, “The Knack are the most nefarious sort of hacks…(their) greatest achievement is to make hard-rock clichés sound completely gutless.” I can’t think of a better recommendation than that.

926.  “Uptown Girl,” Billy Joel. Songwriter: Billy Joel; #3 pop; 1983.  Billy Joel, “The song was originally called ‘Uptown Girls’ not ‘Uptown Girl.’ I know its associated with Christie but when I started to write that song I had recently divorced prior to meeting her, all of the sudden I’m a rock star and divorced. All these women were going out with me.”  This Four Seasons homage gave regular schlubs hope that they could date supermodels, after they became rich and famous.

925.  “You Better Run,” Pat Benatar. Songwriters: Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere; #42 pop; 1980.  Brian Kachejian from the Classic Rock History website, “’You Better Run’ was originally released in 1966 by the Young Rascals. It was written by musical legends Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere. However, Pat Benatar paid great tribute to those songwriters with her monster rock version of their iconic song. Benatar’s vocal on the song clearly should be viewed as one of her best rock vocal performances of her career.” This song is also answers the trivia question, “What was the second video played on MTV when the channel launched in 1981?”  Benatar on the impact of MTV, “Within a week, we couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized. It changed everything in one week.”

924.  “So Long Baby Goodbye,” Blasters. Songwriter: Phil Alvin; Did Not Chart; 1981.  The Blasters brought the spirit of 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll into the age of synth pop.  Music journalist Steve Cooper, “Two rockers off that first Slash album are rock and roll wonders that deserve to be in a hall of fame somewhere. ‘Marie, Marie’ and ‘So Long Baby Goodbye’ feel as if they have existed since the salad days of Bill Haley, but, again, they are more. ‘Marie, Marie,’ for instance, is a rocker with a Cajun feel. John Bazz drives the song on bass and Dave does a dead-on Berry guitar solo. Phil, as ever, astounds on lead vocals. ‘So Long Baby Goodbye’ features a cool harmonica riff by Phil and a wailing sax solo by Lee Allen about three quarters of the way through that propels the song over the top into the stratosphere. And, did I mention that Dave’s lyrics are pure, uncorrupted poetry: ‘None of us are gonna cry/It isn’t even worth the try/So long, baby, goodbye.’”

923.  “C’est La Vie,” Robbie Nevil. Songwriters: Robbie Nevil, Duncan Pain, Mark Holding; #2 pop; 1987.  L.A. pop singer/songwriter Robbie Nevil had credits on minor hit singles by Eddie Kendricks, Melissa Manchester, and Vanity before hitting the charts with the funk influenced pop of “C’est La Vie.”  Nevil originally composed the song for Kool & the Gang, but it was first released by gospel turned pop performer Beau Williams in 1984.  Nevil, “I probably wouldn’t have cut it for myself, because I had had the song for three years, and I didn’t consider it one of my newer things. But we did flip it in the production and made it a hybrid, more of a rock-R&B-pop song, maybe pop-R&B-rock.  It was cool to reach a wider audience. But initially, I didn’t want it out on the album, and I definitely didn’t it want for the first single. But I was wrong.”  Nevil kept busy during the 2000s by writing material for the “High School Musical” franchise and for Miley Cyrus during her “Hannah Montana” era.

922.  “Baby, Come to Me,” Patti Austin and James Ingram.  Songwriter: Rod Temperton; #1 pop/#9 R&B; 1982.  Songwriter Rod Temperton scored hits as a member of Heatwave in the 70’s with the singles “Boogie Nights” and “Always and Forever.”  During the 1980’s, he penned many of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits as well as this bourgeois R&B number that broke pop through exposure on the television soap “General Hospital.”  This type of well crafted, non-threatening R&B was audio catnip for Grammy voters of that era.

921.  “Stop This Game,” Cheap Trick. Songwriters: Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander; #48 pop; 1980.  The intro to “Stop This Game” features a piano chord similar to the ending of “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles, a maneuver incorporated by Rockford’s finest while working with Fab Four knob twisters George Martin and Geoff Emerick.  Music journalist Gwen Ihnat, “Only a few years after ‘Budokan,’ the band kicked it up a few orchestral notches with some actual strings to add James Bond-theme weight to this breakup song. There’s a reason why Rick Nielsen calls Robin Zander his ‘favorite lead singer in the whole wide world’ nearly every show. Check out the way he bravely leads the song off solo, then stands up against an army of violins as he tries to wrestle his way out of this relationship.”  The song merges the power chords of Pete Townshend with the orchestration of an unrestrained ELO.

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