Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Black Female Vocalists of the 1970's

This article gives a brief look at some of the most successful (and/or) trendsetting black female vocalists during the decade of the 70's.

The 70's was a decade in which R&B music came into it own with many off-shoots ranging from standard classic soul to funk to Gospel to disco and Quiet Storm (known as slow jams or slow grooves).

(Listed in alphabetical order by last name)

Natalie Cole

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “This Will Be” (1975), “I’ve Got Love On My Mind” (1976), “Our Love” (1978)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Unpredictable” (1977)

Biggest Hit Overall: “Pink Cadillac” (1988)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Unforgettable… with Love” (1991)

Movies: “Always Outnumbered” (1998), “DeLovely” (2004)

Trivia: Natalie Cole was born on February 6, 1950 and is the daughter of the legendary Nat King Cole. Natalie was fourteen when her father died of cancer. Cole has won nine Grammy Awards. Her biggest selling album “Unforgettable… with Love” is an album of standards previously performed by Nat King Cole. The album includes a rendition of “Unforgettable” in which Nat King Cole’s 1951 recording of the song was edited and remixed to create a duet with Natalie. This duet recording won three Grammy Awards with the album winning the Grammy for Album of the Year.

 Natalie Cole - I've Got Love On My Mind (1976)

Gwen Dickey (Lead singer of Rose Royce)

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “Car Wash,” (1976), “I Wanna Get Next To You” (1977), “Wishing On A Star” (1978), “Love Don’t Live Her Anymore” (1978)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Rose Royce II: In Full Bloom” (1977)

Trivia: The band Rose Royce first formed as an instrumental group named Total Concept Unlimited in 1973. They toured backing big named singers such as Edwin Starr. It was Edwin Starr who introduced the band to songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield. At this point the group was now going by the name Magic Wand. Through their connection with Norman Whitfield, the band began working with The Undisputed Truth (they had a hit with the song “Smiling Faces Sometimes”). It was Joe Harris the leader of Undisputed Truth that introduced Gwen Dickey to the members of Magic Wand. Shortly after their meeting Gwen became the band’s lead singer and the band changed it’s name to Rose Royce. 

 Rose Royce - Wishing On A Star (1978)

Roberta Flack

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1972), “Where Is The Love” (1972), “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (1973), “Feel Like Making Love” (1974), “The Closer I Get To You” (1978)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Killing Me Softly” (1973)
Trivia: Roberta Flack was the first to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year two consecutive years in a row. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" won at the 1973 Grammys and "Killing Me Softly with His Song" won at the 1974 Grammys. She remains the only solo artist to have accomplished this feat, and only U2, who did it in 2001 with "Beautiful Day" and in 2002 with "Walk On", has done it since. In total Flack has won four Grammys and one American Music Award. While she was a teacher at a Jr. High School in Wahington DC, Les McCann discovered Flack when she was playing piano and singing in a nightclub. Her biggest break came in 1972 when the song “The First time Ever I Saw Your Face” was included in the 1972 film “Play Misty for Me.” The song topped the charts, as did the album “First Take” (originally released in 1969).

 Roberta Flack - Feel Like Making Love (1974)

Aretha Franklin

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “Bridge Over Troubled Water (1971), “Spanish Harlem” (1971), “Rock Steady” (1971), “Day Dreaming” (1972), “Until You Come Back To Me” (1973),

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Amazing Grace” (1972)
Biggest Hit Overall: “Respect” (1967)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Amazing Grace” (1972)
Movies: “Blues Brothers (1980), “Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)

Trivia: With hits such as “Respect” (1967), “You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural woman)” (1967), “Chain Of Fools” (1967), “Think” (1968) and others by 1969 Aretha Franklin acquired the “Queen of Soul” title and has held on to it ever since. As a child Aretha began as a Gospel singer in her father’s church. In 1960, age 18, she was signed to Columbia Records and achieved minor success. She placed nine songs on Billboard’s Top 100 from 1961 through 1966, as well as releasing nine albums, four of which made it onto Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. In 1967 she signed with Atlantic Records and immediately achieved success with the song “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” which reached #9 on the singles chart and #1 on the R&B chart. From there it was a strong of non-stop hits through 1974. In the 1980’s she made a comeback with hits such as “Jump To It,” “Freeway Of Love,” “Who’s Zooming Who,” “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” (with Eurythmics).  Aretha Franklin currently holds the distinction of ranking first among female vocalists with the most Billboard chart hits during the rock era (1955–2012) with a total of 88 according to Joel Whitburn's Record Research. Franklin has won an astonishing 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987 Aretha Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Aretha Franklin - Until You Come Back To Me (1973)

Gloria Gaynor

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “Never Can Say Goodbye” (1974), “I Will Survive” (1978)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Love Tracks” (1978)
Biggest Hit Overall: “I Will Survive” (1978)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Love Tracks” (1978)
Movies: “Pinay, American Style” (1980)

Trivia: Gloria Gaynor is best remembered for her mega-hit “I Will Survive.” Although, the song was almost not a hit, it was originally as the B-side to a song called "Substitute", which had recently been a worldwide hit for the South African girl-group Clout. Jack King a Disco Radio DJ in Boston, turned the record over and recalls being stunned by what he heard. "I couldn't believe they were burying this monster hit on the B-side", says King, "I played it and played it and my listeners went nuts!" Due to the huge audience response Polydor Records flipped the songs, so that subsequent copies of the single listed “I Will Survive” as the A-side and the song went on to become a #1 hit in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland as well as reaching the Top 10 in another 13 countries in the world. In the US the song was certified double platinum for selling more than 2 million copies.

Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive (1979)

Chaka Khan

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “Tell Me Something Good (1974), “Once You Get Started” (1975), “Sweet Thing” (1975), “I’m Every Woman” (1978)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Ask Rufus” (1977)
Biggest Hit Overall: “I Feel for You” (1984)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Ask Rufus” (1977)
Movies: “The Blues Brothers” (1980), “Globehunters” (voice)(2000), “Revival!” (2015)

Trivia: Often called the “Queen Of Funk,” Chaka Khan has won ten Grammy Awards and has sold a combined total of 70 million albums worldwide (including those with the group Rufus). Chaka was the lead singer of the funk group Rufus from 1973 though 1978. It was the hit song “Tell Me Something Good” (written by Stevie Wonder) which brought Rufus to the forefront. By 1978 Chaka was becoming increasingly popular and a solo career had become evident for her. Her debut solo album was released in 1978 and included the smash hit “I’m Every Woman,” which was later recorded and released by Whitney Houston. Chaka’s biggest hit is 1984’s “I Feel For You,” written by Prince, the song was #1 on both the US and UK charts.

Rufus featuring Chaka Khan - Tell Me Something Good (1974)

Gladys Knight

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “If I Were Your Woman (1970), “Neither One Of Us” (1973), “Midnight Train To Georgia” (1973), “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” (1973), “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me,” (1974), “On & On” (1974)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Imagination” (1973)
Biggest Hit Overall: “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me,” (1974)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Imagination” (1973)
Movies: “Pipe Dreams” (1976), “Desperado” (1987), “Twenty Bucks” (1993), “Hollywood Homicide” (2003), “Unbeatable Harold” (2006), “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” (2009), “Seasons Of Love” (2015)

Trivia: At the age of seven, in 1952, Gladys won Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour TV show contest. The following year Gladys formed the group The Pips with her cousins and her brother. By 1961 they recorded their first single “Every Beat Of My Heart,” which made it to #6 on the US singles chart and was the start of a very long and successful career for Gladys. The bulk of her hit were made with her group Gladys Knight and The Pips. In 1987 Gladys recorded her final album with The Pips and she started a solo career. As a solo artist her career wasn’t as successful, though she managed to win four Grammy awards plus another three with The Pips, numbering a total of seven Grammys.

 Gladys Knight & The Pips - Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (1974)

Diana Ross

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1970), “Touch Me In The Morning” (1973), “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know where You’re going To)” (1975), “Love Hangover” (1976)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Diana Ross” (1976)
Biggest Hit Overall: “Upside Down” (1980)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Diana” (1980)

Movies: “Lady Sings The Blues” (1972), “Mahogany” (1975), “The Wiz” (1978), “Out Of Darkness” (1994), “Double Platinum” (1999)

Trivia: At the age of 15 Diana Ross joined the Primettes who later were signed to Motown Records and changed their name to The Supremes (Diana Ross & The Supremes). The Supremes went on to achieve major success in the 1960’s with 12 #1 hits on the US charts. They became famous worldwide and are one of the world’s most successful groups of all-time. They paved the way for future African American R&B and soul acts to find mainstream success. Ross left the Supremes in 1970 and immediately pursued a solo career that was also hugely successful. As a solo artist Ross has had six #1 US hits making a total of eighteen US #1 hits with Diana Ross as the lead vocalist. Not many singers have enjoyed phenomenal success with two separate musical entities as Ross has. Along with music ross enjoyed a successful career as a big screen actress portraying Billie Holiday in 1972’s “The Lady Sings The Blues” and in 1975 she stars as a poor woman who rises to fame and fortune as a fashion designer in the film “Mahogany.” In 1978 she starred, with Michael Jackson, in the cult classic musical “The Wiz.” In 1993, The Guinness World Book of Records, named Diana Ross the world’s most successful female music artist in history for her combined successes from The Supremes and her solo work.

Diana Ross - Love Hangover (1976)

Poly Styrene

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “The Day The World Turned Day-Glo (1978), “Identity” (1978), “Germ Free Adolescents” (1978)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Germ Free Adolescents” (1978)
Biggest Hit Overall: “Germ Free Adolescents” (1978)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Germ Free Adolescents” (1978)

Trivia: All the other female vocalists in this blog post have been extremely successful with gold and platinum albums worldwide. Poly Styrene is the exception, but I included her in this article because I feel Poly Styrene is one of the 70’s most important black female vocalists. She is very underrated and her contribution to music should be acknowledged. Poly Styrene was born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said in 1957 in the UK. Her mother alone raised her. As a teenager, Styrene was a hippie but also trained in opera. At age 15, she ran away from home with £3 in her pocket, and hitchhiked from one music festival to another, staying at hippie crash pads. Thinking of this as a challenge to survive, her adventure ended when she stepped on a rusty nail while bathing in a stream and had to be treated for inflammation caused by a whole body infection. In 1976 she decided to form the punk band XRay Spex by putting an ad in the newspaper which read, “young punx who want to stick it together to form a band.” After forming the band she settled on her stage name Poly Styrene, she chose the name from the Yellow Pages as she was looking for a name with something to do with plastic. She was described by Billboard as the "archetype for the modern-day feminist punk"; because she wore dental braces, stood against the typical sex object female of 1970s rock star, sported a gaudy Dayglo wardrobe, and was of mixed race. She was "one of the least conventional front-persons in rock history, male or female". Styrene’s lyrics mostly dealt with breaking the stereotypes that society has put on women. With her music Styrene inspired a generation of women to be strong and to fight small thinking. Styrene died April 25, 2011 at the age of 53. She had breast cancer which had spread to her spine and lungs.

XRay Spex - The Day The World Turned Dayglo (1978)

Donna Summer

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “Love To Love You Baby” (1975), “I Feel Love” (1977), “Last Dance” (1978), “MacArthur Park” (1978), “Heaven Knows” (1978), “Hot Stuff” (1979), “Bad Girls” (1979), “Dim All The Lights” (1979), “No More Tears (with Barbra Streisand)(1979), “On The Radio” (1979)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Bad Girls” (1979)
Biggest Hit Overall: “Hot Stuff” (1979)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Bad Girls” (1979)

Movies: “Thank God It’s Friday” (1978)

Trivia: Donna Summer has reportedly sold more than 140 million albums worldwide, which puts in with in one of the most successful musicians of all-time. Her career started in Germany to play the part of Sheila in the musical Hair. She was only 17 when she moved to Germany. Soon Donna became fluent in the German language and performed in more musicals. In 1978, as Donna Gaines, she released her first single, a German rendition of the song “Aquarius.” With in the next few years a few more singles were recorded and released to the European market. Her first album, 1974’s “Lady Of The Night,” was recorded and released in Europe. The album was produced by Pete Bellotte and included songs written by Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder. She achieved minor success throughout Europe with the album. It wasn’t until her second album, 1975’s “Love To Love You Baby,” that Donna gained international hit status. The album ran to the top of the charts throughout the world and spawned to title track smash hit. The album was produced by the winning team of Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte and introduced an electronic sound, which was absent from her first album. Moroder & Bellotte produced Donna’s next five albums and all were huge hits throughout the world. Her career peak came with 1979’s “Bad Girls” album. With this album she began widening her musical scope tried her hand at country type ballads such as “On My Honour” and “There Will Always Be A You.” Most notably she included rock structures in her dance rhythms with heavy guitars and strong drums on songs such as “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls.”. Due to her major worldwide success with disco music (in the 70’s) Donna has been given the title of “Queen of Disco.” In the 80’s she continued to explore other genres including new wave, country, Gospel, ballads and so forth. Sadly Donna passed away on May 17, 2012, aged 63, from lung cancer, possibly caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. In 2013 she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 Donna Summer - Hot Stuff (1979)

Dionne Warwick

Prominent Hits in the 70’s: “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” (1970), “Then Came You (with The Spinners)(1974), “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” (1979), “Deja Vu” (1979)

Best Selling Album of the 70’s: “Dionne” (1979)
Biggest Hit Overall: “That’s What Friends Are For” (1985)

Best Selling Album Overall: “Dionne” (1979)

Movies: “Slaves” (1969), “Rent-A-Cop” (1991)

Trivia: Dionne Warwick is one of the most successful pop singers on the Billboard US singles chart. She has placed 66 singles in the Top 100 singles chart, tying her in third place with Madonna for female with the most Top 100 singles in the US. Warwick comes from a family of singers. Her mother, aunts and uncles were members of the Drinkard Singers, a renowned family gospel group. Dionne’s aunt is the famed Cissy Houston (born Emily Drinkard) is mother to the late and great Whitney Houston. Dionne Warwick is Whitney’s cousin. Opera singer Leontyne Price is a second cousin to Dionne. Warwick’s first success came in 1962 when she was signed to Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s production company and soon after began recording for Scepter Records. Throughout the 1960’s Warwick had hits with several Bacharach/David tunes including “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Walk On By,” “Message To Michael,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “Do You Know The Way To San Jose,” “This Girl’s In Love With You” and several others. By 1970 the hits were less frequent for Warwick and it wasn’t until 1974 that she saw another hit with the chart-topping “Then Came You” with The Spinners. But this was a short lived come back. Finally in 1979 Warwick made a long lasting comeback with the release of her album “Dionne,” the album was produced by Barry Manilow and contains the hits “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” “Déjà vu,” and “After You.” The hits continued for Warwick through 1987 with her crowning achievement being the 1985 collaboration “That’s What Friends Are For.” The song was written by Burt Bacaharach and Carole Bayer Sager and raised $3 million for The American Foundation for AIDS Research.

Dionne Warwick - I'll Never Love This Way Again (1979)

The 70's

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top 100 Songs of the New Wave Era

New Wave music is a style of music that first came to life in the late 70's with it's roots branching from punk. Some of the earliest new wave groups include Blondie, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Devo and Gary Numan.

New wave includes several sub-genres such as new romantic, ska, electronic, mod, synth-pop, alt-rock, goth and disco.

The following list is my personal Top 100 favorites of the new wave KROQ era of the late 70's through the 80's.

Top 100 Songs of The New Wave Era

100. Take Me To Your Leader – The Sinceros
99. Rock Wrok – Ultravox
98. In The Midnight Hour - Roxy Music
97. The Robots – Kraftwerk
96. Ashes To Ashes – David Bowie
95. Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
94. Free Nelson Mandela – The Specials
93. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
92. Drugs – Talking Heads
91. Cities – Talking Heads
90. Nowhere Girl – B-Movie
89. Heaven – Talking Heads
88. L’Elephant- Tom Tom Club
87. White Wedding – Billy Idol
86. Cars – Gary Numan
85. Three Of A Perfect Pair – King Crimson
84. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others – The Smiths
83. The Model – Kraftwerk
82. Don’t Care – Klark Kent (Stewart Copeland)
81. Slice Of Life – Bauhaus
80. Broke N Idol – Anthony More (aka Anthony Moore or A. More)
79. Big Mouth Strikes Again – The Smiths
78. Don’t Box Me In – Stan Ridgway & Stewart Copeland
77. Underpass – John Foxx
76. Excess – Klark Kent (Stewart Copeland)
75. We’re Having Much More Fun – X
74. Fire – U2
73. Rock Lobster – B-52’s
72. Scary Monsters – David Bowie
71. She’s Lost Control – Joy Division
70. The Great Curve – Talking Heads
69. Motorcrash – Sugarcubes
68. I Got You – Split Enz
67. Are Friends Electric? – Gary Numan
66. Burning Down The House – Talking Heads
65. Rebel Yell – Billy Idol
64. Genius Of Love – Tom Tom Club
63. Identity – X Ray Spex
62. I Think I’m Go-Go – Squeeze
61. Major Tom – Peter Schilling
60. Computer Games – Mi-Sex
59. White Mice – Mo-Dettes
58. Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie & The banshees
57. Superman – Kinks
56. All Stood Still – Ultravox 
55. Lions – Tones On Tails 
54. Mexican Radio –Wall Of Voodoo
53. Nite Klub – The Specials
52. I Spy for The FBI – The Untouchables
51. Bad Connection – Yaz
50. Third Uncle – Brian Eno
49. Can’t Make Love – Wall Of Voodoo
48. Never Let You Down – Depeche Mode
47. It Could Be Sunshine – Love And Rockets
46. Night Train – Visage
45. It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz) – Lene Lovich
44. Take me To The River – Talking Heads
43. Ring Of Fire – Wall Of Voodoo
42. Stranger In A Strange Land – U2
41. Young Savage – Ultravox
40. Blue Monday – New Order
39. Diving Girls – Anthony More
38. Roxanne – The Police
37. Me I Disconnect From You – Gary Numan
36. Message In A Bottle – The Police
35. Mad World – Tears For Fears
34. The Great Beautician In The Sky – Magazine
33. Invisible Sun – The Police
32. Moving Pictures – Kinks
31. Into You Like a Train – Psychedelic Furs
30. Red Light – Wall Of Voodoo
29. Baggy Trousers – Madness
28. Eyes Without A Face – Billy Idol
27. On, On, On, On – Tom Tom Club
26. I Must Not Have Bad Thoughts – X
25. Christine – Siouxsie & The Banshees
24. World Service – Anthony More
23. Sowing The Seeds Of Love – Tears For Fears
22. Shot By Both Sides – Magazine
21. Quiet Life – Japan
20. Electric Guitar – Talking Heads
19. One Way Or Another – Blondie
18. I Will Follow – U2
17. Gentlemen Take Polaroids – Japan
16. Oh Yeah – Roxy Music
15. Once In A Lifetime – Talking Heads
14. Chamber Of Hellos – Wire Train
13. Love Is The Drug – Roxy Music
12. Night Boat To Cairo – Madness 
11. Judy (Get Down) – Anthony More

The Top Ten 
10. Fire In Cairo – The Cure (1979)

Written by: Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey and Lol Tolhurst
Produced by: Chris Parry
Featured On The Album: Three Imaginary Boys
Label: Fiction
Chart Positions: Not released as a single

Fire In Cairo (video) 

This song is about a dream or maybe an imagination in the mind (also known as a hallucination). He sees a girl in his mind that he thinks is beautiful. He has her in his arms and it’s hot, it’s like magic, it’s burning hot. But then he realizes it’s only an illusion and she disappears. 
This is ultimately one of the great songs of all-time. It’s catchy but catchy in such an underscored manner. This song has been so influential that there’s even a Cure cover band called Fire In Cairo. The song was first released in 1979 on The Cure’s debut album “Three Imaginary Boys.” They didn’t release any singles from the album though many of the songs, including “Fire In Cairo,” have gone on to become classics. The first known recorded version of “Fire In Cairo” is from The Cure’s Peel Sessions recorded on December 4, 1978 and finally released in 1988 on the Strange Fruit label.

9. Definitive Gaze – Magazine (1978)

Written by: Howard Devoto & John McGeoch
Produced by: John Leckie
Featured On The Album: Real Life
Label: Virgin/IRS
Chart Positions: Not released as a single

 Definitive Gaze (Video)
The song is short on lyrics but heavy on powerful feeling and creativity. With this song Magazine sounds very much like early Roxy Music ala Brian Eno meets Bryan Ferry.
“Definitive Gaze” was featured on Magazine’s first studio album “Real Life” and is the title song of the album as the lyrics read, “so this is real life you’re telling me.” Howard Devoto formed Magazine in 1977 after he left the punk band Buzzcocks earlier that year.

8. You Are In My Vision – Gary Numan & The Tubeway Army (1979)

 Written by: Gary Numan
Produced by: Gary Numan
Featured On The Album: Replicas
Label: Beggars Banquet/Atco
Chart Positions: Not released as a single

You Are In My Vision (Video)

I call this “machine rock,” Numan makes great use of synth and beats. “You Are In My Vision” was the perfect blend of the mini-moog and electric guitar. The song has a hard rock sensibility with a robot sort of metallic sound.
There were many aspects of this song that caught my attention, the guitar, the synth sounds, Gary’s robotic lead vocal. But mostly it was the dark and somewhat cold lyrics that really hooked me. It was creative but in a bleak sort of icy way. I was hooked the instant I heard this song and Gary Numan became a lifelong favorite.
“Delicate bodies that decay beneath their clothing. Play cards in an empty house in Paris. The wreckage of a hero lies broken in a corner and everyone pretends they like to live that way. You are in my vision (I can't turn my face) You are in my vision (I can't move my eyes) You are in my vision (I can't move at all) You are in my vision.”

7. DJ By David Bowie (1979)

Written by: David Bowie, Brian Eno and Carlos Alomar
Produced by: David Bowie and Tony Visconti
Featured On The Album: Lodger
Label: RCA
Chart Positions: #29 UK

DJ (Video)

Crunchy, groovy and arty that is pretty much the mood and feel of Bowie’s 13th studio album “Lodger” from which DJ is featured. The song is a mocking look at the world of the DJ. DJ is David Bowie’s attempt to sing like David Byrne of the Talking Heads. Probably the best part of the song is Adrian Belew’s guitar solo, which was recorded in multiple takes and then stitched together in the studio for the album. Just for note Adrian Belew is one of my favorite musicians of all-time and during this time period Belew was working on the Talking Heads’ album “Remain In Light” which was produced by Brian Eno. Eno by the way did synthesizers, electronic keyboard, guitars and other work on Bowie’s “Lodger” album. DJ was released as a single only in the UK. RCA felt it was not commercial enough to release in any other markets. The music video for the song was filmed at Earls Court in London in 1979.

6. Transmission – Joy Division (1979)
Written by: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis
Produced by: Martin Hannett
Featured On The Album: Non-LP later released on the compilation “Substance”
Label: Factory
Chart Positions: #2 New Zealand, #4 UK Indie

Transmission (Video)

“Transmission” is the epitome of Joy Division… gloomy, dark and moody. With the first strains of Ian Curtis’ deep and rough voice you can feel the understated angst and fury of the song. It’s a fury of emotion not a fury of “the world is in peril.” The song is not at all a complex composition the bass line is simplistic and remains the same, without change, all the way through creating a bleak foreboding mood. The repetitious bass line give the song a feeling of grayness and darkness. The repetitive 5-note guitar riff and dark cold synth adds to the coldness of the song. The song reaches a pinnacle as; lead singer Ian Curtis lets out a rough sustained yelp in the last chorus of the song, a scream of sorts. It’s a scream of a man who has reached the end of his rope, he is yelling for help. The song emits loneliness and pain; it’s digs into your soul with a sharpness of emotion.   
The lyric “we would have a fine time living in the night,” gives a double sense of living in the carefree moment of nightlife or living in a world of darkness and knowing there is no other choice. The very next line “left to blind destruction, waiting for our sight,” confirms that the world of darkness in this song is desolate and grim and quite possibly not fit for human life. As the song progresses it comes back to that dark nightlife where words are no longer needed, just sound and the beat of the music and all we do is dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio.
“Transmission” was Joy Division’s first single and was released in October 1979. It was a non-album release although due to the popularity of “Transmission” sales of their debut album “Unknown Pleasures” increased tremendously. The song eventually found its way onto the compilation album “Substance,” which was released in 1988. A live performance of “Transmission” was included in the film “24 Hour Party People,” in which Ian Curtis suffers an epileptic fit.
The song has been covered by several well known acts including Low, Complot Bronswick, Bauhaus, Innerpartysystem, Hot Chip and others.

5. Big Electric Cat – Adrian Belew (1982)
Written by: Adrian Belew
Produced by: Adrian Belew
Featured On The Album: Lone Rhino
Label: Island
Chart Positions: Non-charting single released in UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Japan

Big Electric Cat (Video)

“Big Electric Cat” is one of those songs I can listen to over and over in amazement. The guitar work is just so fantastic. This hard rocking song beats with great propulsive percussion. Much of Belew’s earliest work was fret with Afro-beat rhythms and percussions most notably his work with Talking Heads and David Bowie. Ted Mills of described the song as “Howling five stringed felines over a propulsive Afro-funk beat.” Belew has always had an attraction for making animal sounds with his guitar. He would add electronic effects and incorporate unusual techniques. In songs such as Tom Tom Club’s “L’Elephant” or King Crimson’s “Elephant Talk” Belew mimic the sound of an elephant with his guitar. He mimics the rhinoceros in his own songs most predominantly in “Big Electric Cat,” in which he also mimics a screaming jaguar.

The song includes layers of Adrian’s vocals and layers of synthesized musical effects and a rhythm that doesn’t end. “Big Electric Cat” is one of the most influential tunes of the 80’s, amongst rock guitarists. 

As an interesting sidenote "The Big Electric Cat," named for the Adrian Belew song, was a public access computer system in New York City in the late 1980's, known on Usenet as node dasys1.

4. Ghost Town – The Specials (1981)

Written by: Jerry Dammers
Produced by: John Collins
Featured On The Album: None Album Release
Label: 2-Tone
Chart Positions: #1 UK, #3 Ireland, #7 Norway, #12 Netherlands, #15 Belgium, #20 New Zealand, #68 Australia

Ghost Town (Video)

The song did not just define a musical genre but also social and
governmental unrest. “Ghost Town” was inspired by the recession growing in the UK in the latter part of 1980. Shops were closing down and people were selling their belonging on the streets. It was a time of depression and the UK, in the mind of Jerry Dammers, was becoming a Ghost town, it was a becoming a shadow of it’s former self. The song addresses the decay of a once great country, it’s increasing unemployment and the impending violence and riots on the street. “This town is coming like a Ghost town, all the clubs have been closed down. This place is coming like a Ghost Town, bands won’t play no more. Too much fighting on the dancefloor. Do you remember the good old days before the Ghost Town?”

The song had a huge impact on the UK music scene and the culture of the country. All three major UK music magazines, Melody Maker, NME and Sounds, named the song “Single of the Year” and it topped the UK charts for three weeks.

I love the song for it’s haunting sound of impending doom. Overall this song just gives me chills. One of the best things out of the 80’s.

#3. Roxy Music – The Same Old Scene (1980)

Written by: Bryan Ferry
Produced by: Rhett Davies and Roxy Music
Featured On The Album: Flesh & Blood
Label: Reprise, E.G.
Chart Positions: #12 UK, #27 Belgium, #29 Netherlands, #35 Australia

Same Old Scene (Video)

The best thing about this song is it’s ferocious groove… it is unstoppable. This funk-filled synth tune gets you going and keeps you going. It’s an “up” sound and I love “up” sounds! The Bernard Edwards (Chic) styled bass-line propels the song into a dance craze that is both in your face and mysterious. As with previous Roxy Music songs this one is filled with a good amount of saxophone, which just sets Roxy Music apart from other bands at the time. Right from day one this song became a staple in the London club scene, becoming a classic of sorts. The song got further exposure when it was featured during the opening and closing credits of the 1980 Robert Stigwood/Tim Curry film “Times Square.”

What captures me most about this song? Phil Manzanera’s agile and energetic guitar work, it gets me every time.

#2. Pale Shelter – Tears For Fears (1983)

Written by: Roland Orzabal
Produced by: Chris Hughes, Ross Cullum
Featured On The Album: The Hurting
Label: Phonogram, Mercury, Vertigo
Chart Positions: #5 UK, Ireland, #12 Canada, #16 Poland, #25 Germany

Tears For Fears landed their first recording contract in 1981 with Phonogram using a demo recording of “Pale Shelter” and “Suffer The Children.” An early recording of “Pale Shelter” was released as a single in 1982 but did not chart. A year later the song was re-recorded for the 1983 album “The Hurting,” and was released as the third single from that album. At this time the song became a big hit on the charts. After the success of 1985’s “Songs From The Big Chair,” Mercury Records rereleased the 1982 recording of “Pale Shelter” as a single again.

On the meaning of the song Roland Orzabal states, “It’s a kind of love song, though more referring to one’s parents than to a girl.” “You don’t give me love, you give me pale shelter. You don’t give me love, you give me cold hands.”

I relate to this song on many different levels, the lyrics put me in a sense of deep contemplation, while the music puts me in a joyous mood. It’s a song with irony and layers of emotion.

#1. New Dawn Fades – Joy Division (1979)

Written by: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis
Produced by: Martin Hannett, Joy Division
Featured On The Album: Unknown Pleasures
Label: Factory Records
Chart Positions: Not released as a single

New Dawn Fades (Video)

Chilling and brooding is how I describe this song. Joy Division is the epitome of the directions music in the 80’s was going. Heavy use of rhythms and bass seemed to dominate much of the popular music of the 80’s. Though, Joy Division was highly influential in shaping the direction of rock and club music of the 80’s, they themselves were not present making music as their life as a band came to an unexpected halt in 1980. Due to uncontrollable epileptic seizures, lead singer Ian Curtis fell into a heavy depression and hung himself on May 18, 1980. Two months later the remaining band members began gigging as a trio and later took on the name New Order. As New Order they achieved worldwide success with albums and singles reaching the Top 20 throughout the world.

“New Dawn Fades” is featured on Joy division’s debut album “Unknown Pleasures” released in 1979. The song is built upon a forward moving guitar part played by Bernard Sumner combined with a diminishing bass-line expertly played by Peter Hook. The song ends with a dark and brooding guitar solo. In a rarity for Joy Division “New Dawn Fades,” includes two clear cut guitar parts. One is obscured and pushed toward the back of the mix, the other is a crisp electric guitar played with a forward jangling tone.
The song has been covered by Moby (with cooperation from New Order) and is included on his 1997 compilation “I Like To Score.” Others to cover the song are John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), The Sight Below and Rheinallt H. Rowlands.

Bubbling Under The Top 100: 
101. Eight Miles High - Roxy Music
102. Wild Thing - X
103. I Predict - Sparks
104. Let's Go - The Cars
105. Angst In My Pants - Sparks
106. Weird Science - Oingo Boingo
107. Superman - REM
108. Breathless - X
109. Lipstick - Suzi Quatro
110. Suspect Device - Stiff Little Fingers


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