The best of 1982 mix tape

There’s controversy in the Lo household! Mrs. Lo is pretty indignant that Physical by Olivia Newton John didn’t make the cut for the best of 1982 tape, and actually threatened some unspecified retribution if 867-5309 by Tommy Tutone (another long list contender) made it instead ONJ. In the end, neither one survived, and it looks like I’ll live to mix another day. I knew there would be some controversy and hurt feelings when I started this project, but I didn’t realize the threats would be quite so serious and close to home.

The 1982 mix was the hardest one yet to put together, and a lot of great stuff had to be trimmed to meet the self-imposed 60-minute run time. (Selection criteria is here.) Pour a forty on the curb for Willie Nelson’s Always on My Mind, the last song out. Also, it should be noted that a surefire selection, I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts is missing since it is nowhere to be found on Spotify.

As always, I invite you to peruse the list, take a listen to the final product and then let fire with the “how did you leave out XXX” vitriol.

Rio – Duran Duran

I always preferred this one over Hungry Like the Wolf. Maybe because of the video? (Wasn’t this the one where they were cruising around on sailboats in the Caribbean? I think so at least.)

More Than This – Roxy Music

One of my favorite songs ever and the first song that made this list. Classic stuff and a strong contender for the best of the 80s.

Gardening at Night – R.E.M.

Without a doubt the hardest choice I had to make, as 1982 has three of my favorite R.E.M. songs ever to choose from: the original versions of Radio Free Europe and Sitting Still, as well as the eventual winner here. Were it not for my “one song per artist per mix” (aka, the Michael Jackson Thriller Rule), all three of them would have comfortably made the cut.

The One Thing – INXS

With all of the recent reality TV nonsense, it’s easy to forget how great a band INXS were back in the day. Here’s a great reminder.

Someday, Someway – Marshall Crenshaw

This is three minutes of guitar pop perfection.

Senses Working Overtime – XTC

A personal XTC favorite. That chorus is just killer.

The Metro – Berlin

About as quintessentially early 80s as you can get and a good way to end side A.

Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye at his best is pretty much the best music has to offer.

Save it for Later – The Beat

Whether you call them The Beat or The English Beat, it’s impossible to deny how great this song is.

Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol

Another controversial choice in the Lo household, but I think this crushes White Wedding into a fine powder, and then, in true 80s fashion, sniffs it off a toilet seat. (That’s my the best sentence I’ve written. I need to take a moment to enjoy that one… Okay. I’m good. Continue.)

She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby

You can argue that TD doesn’t belong on this list, I guess. You’d be absolutely and completely wrong, but you could try.

I Melt With You – Modern English

I know, I know. This one has been beaten into the ground to the point of ridiculousness. I mean, it was the centerpiece of a freaking Burger King ad campaign for the love of Pete (and Pete). Some songs are just too good no matter how you try to ruin them, and this is no doubt one of them.

Space Age Love Song – Flock of Seagulls

To be honest, I never cared for I Ran, but this one is pretty fantastic.

Kids in America – Kim Wilde

(Cut to everyone, suddenly remembering how great this song is and saying “Oh, yeah!”). You’re welcome.

Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash

It was a coin flip between this and Straight to Hell. I almost excluded Combat Rock completely due to my dislike for Rock the Casbah, but in the end the lure of Strummer proves too strong as usual.

And here’s the playlist version for your listening pleasure.

Okay, let fly. Which of your favorites are missing?

Cheers.

The best of 1981 mix tape

This is the second in my quest to come up with a definitive mix tape for every year of the rock and roll era. I started with 1980, but eventually I hope to cover every year from 1955 to the present. Ground rules for selection were covered here.

This week, we are smack dab in the middle of new wave in 1981, so synthesizers are everywhere. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Ceremony (Alt 12′ mix) – New Order

This is arguably my favorite song of the entire decade, so odds are you’ll see it on the eventual best of the 80s compilation. Marks the moment when New Order rose from the ashes of Joy Division after Ian Curtis’ suicide. This is one of the last songs he wrote before his death.

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police

So many good tracks on Ghosts in the Machine, so it was basically a toss up between this and Dehumanize Yourself for the spot on the mix. Couldn’t go wrong either way.

Just the Two of Us – Grover Washington, Jr./Bill Withers

Sometimes you just go where the music takes you, hipster dufus cred be damned. A great R&B song written by the immortal Bill Withers.

Girls on Film – Duran Duran

If you are familiar with this track in the U.S. you probably didn’t realize that it was released before Rio made them massive stars. The song and album it came from (Duran Duran) were eventually re-released on the U.S. to capitalize on their fame, but it first came out in 1981.

Takin’ A Ride – The Replacements

Just a teaser of the greatness on the way from the ‘Mats later in the decade.

Since You’re Gone – The Cars

The Cars haven’t aged particularly well, but they were downright massive in the early part of the decade.

Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode

And here come the synths. Depeche Mode at their early poppiest.

Jessie’s Girl – Rick Springfield

Remember when Rick Springfield once ruled the world? It was because of songs like this.

Gloria – U2

Listen to this. Then go listen to Songs of Innocence. Yeah, bit depressing isn’t it?

We Got the Beat – The Go Gos

A great guitar pop song from a ridiculously great pop album.

Pretty in Pink – The Psychedelic Furs

The far superior dirtier, grungier version of this song, without the saxophone added for the appearance in the John Hughes movie.

People Just Love to Play With Words – Men at Work

I unabashedly love this album and song. Still have my original vinyl copy. Lots of good tunes on there.

Stand and Deliver – Adam and the Ants

Great tune. Does anybody scream early 80s more loudly than Adam Ant though?

Don’t You Want Me – The Human League

Here come the synths again, with a vengeance. They don’t care if you’re working as a waitress at a cocktail bar.

The Unguarded Moment – The Church

Another record that I have my original copy and another personal favorite song from the decade. This one was a mixtape regular back in the day.

Spellbound – Siouxsie and the Banshees

The last song that made the cut. It came down to this and Controversy by Prince, and Spellbound won out since it fit the “tape.”

So, there you go. Apologies to Prince for the late cut, but sometimes brevity can be your friend. Here’s the list for your Spotify listening/subscribing pleasure.

Cheers.

Why Frozen coming to Epcot is a bad thing

Call me old fashion, but I think Disney’s decision to replace Norway’s Maelstrom attraction with one inspired by the massively popular Frozen is a bad idea. A really bad idea. And it’s not that I’m a huge fan of trolls or particularly care about Norway or have an irrational dislike for Frozen (in fact, I rather enjoyed it.)

Here’s my objection. Frozen has nothing to do with Norway itself. The movie is set in a fictional, vaguely Scandinavian land called Arrendelle. It may have been inspired by Norway, and I’m sure there’s several Disney obsessive types who will be quick to point out why I’m wrong here. To me though, the great thing about Epcot was that it was one of the few popular attractions in the U.S., or in Disney World for that matter, that bothered to care about other cultures. Part of the attraction of the place (pun very much intended) was that you could walk around the World Showcase, have a drink or two, actually talk to folks who lived in the different countries represented, and maybe learn a thing or two about some place that wasn’t ‘Merica.

That may seem a lame or flimsy excuse in the face of thousands of screaming Elsa wannabes (and the millions of dollars that they and their families will likely spend at “Fro-way” on cheap tiaras and Olaf plush toys), but it was a very real experience and kinda/sorta the whole point of Epcot in the first place. It’s akin to replacing the Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom or The American Experience with Lightning McQueen and Mater (Wait, forget I mentioned that. Don’t blame me when that happens next year.)

And yes I realize that Disney has integrated other fictional attractions and characters into existing countries before (think Mary Poppins in the UK and maybe Mulan in China), but at least these fictional characters were set in very real places, even if Dick Van Dyke’s English accent was the greatest American insult to our former colonial masters since some tea was dumped into Boston Harbor a few hundred years ago. Frozen doesn’t even have this kind of connection.

Anyway, the decision has been made. I’m sure it will be wildly popular, make a gajillion dollars, be sold out for months in advance, and help the inevitable Frozen 2 open to record numbers. And that’s fine. Just don’t call it Norwegian, and don’t pretend that it’s part of what Epcot was meant to be.

 

Three quick thoughts on the new U2 album

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to live with and listen to the surprise new U2 album, here are a couple of thoughts.

1. It’s…Ok. Not terrible, definitely better than their last record, but otherwise fairly unremarkable. About what you should expect from a giant mainstream rock band in their 50s. It gives them another couple of songs to freshen their concert set list and then go out and make hundreds of millions of dollars on the inevitable behemoth 15 month world tour that will inevitably follow. More power to them.
It’s the kind of record that you like more in the first listen than the fifth, which doesn’t bode well for me actually purchasing it.

2. When I first heard that their new record was available to download for free, I thought that was pretty cool. But then it turns out that it wasn’t available to download, it was just there in over 500 million iTunes libraries, whether you wanted it or not. I thought that was pretty creepy, but now I’m borderline offended by the idea. (Though I will admit the twitter reactions of kids who have no idea who they are discovering this “gift” have been really funny.) Speaking of things that are offensive…

3. What the hell happened to The Edge?!? It’s one thing to release a fairly mediocre album in a totally creepy fashion that warms the hearts of Coldplay fans everywhere, but quite another to basically muzzle the most interesting part of your band in the process. Where’s the ringing guitar of Where the Streets Have No Name and City of Blinding Lights? Where’s the distinctive Edge sound that really only he can produce and has been the savior of most of your later albums? Had they abandoned that sound to do a full on weird, Danger Mouse helmed attempt to right the horrible wrong of Pop, that would have been understandable. It may have been a disaster, but at least it could have been interesting. If you’re content with making a slightly worse or slightly better version of most of your 2000s output, don’t abandon your musical money maker and double down on Bono’s increasing lyrical Ambien. This sounds more like the product of a Jay-Z/Chris Martin/Bono jam session.

So, JLo’s verdict is smack down the middle of the grading curb. Songs of Innocence is a pleasant, unremarkable listen, one that probably won’t stick with you more than a few seconds beyond the end of the final track. And one that I doubt will ever find its way into my or many other physical record collections. Glad Apple made it worth their while.

Have you heard it? What is your verdict?

Cheers.

I remember

Note: This was originally posted on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and I’ve reposted it each year on this day since. I haven’t edited the piece much, since I’ve yet to find a better way to say any of this in the last four years. And I still haven’t made sense of anything that happened day, though I’m still grateful to The Boss and impressed with George W. Bush’s fastball.

I remember getting to work a little late that day, around 9:10 AM. I don’t remember why I was late, maybe I had an errand to take care of on the way to work or was just running behind that day. As soon as I walked into our office my friend John asked me if I had seen what had happened. I hadn’t listened to the radio on the way to work and had not seen a TV that morning.

“Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center this morning.”

“Are you serious?” was all I could think to reply.

I went to my desk and tried to pull up the CNN website, but it was only partially loading, slowed to a crawl no doubt by people just like me trying to find out what was happening and overwhelmed by the surreal events taking place. We heard that there was a TV on the first floor with the news on, so we took the elevator down and watched with a few dozen other people.

I remember being acutely aware of how quiet the room was. Everyone was just standing and watching silently, trying to comprehend what they were witnessing. While it wasn’t exactly clear what was happening when the first plane hit the North Tower, after the South Tower was hit it was obvious that this was something completely beyond our ability to immediately understand. All I remember thinking when I saw those buildings burning was “how long can they stand burning like that?”

I remember NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski was reporting from the Pentagon around 9:30 when he said that there had been a massive explosion there. For the first time, I was scared. This wasn’t just something happening in New York anymore; this was war. How many more planes were there? What was going to get hit next? And about this time the “unconfirmed reports” started to pour in: the Sears Tower in Chicago was a target; the Empire State building had been threatened; there was a hijacked plane on the ground in Cleveland (this last one in particular seemed to have a lot of legs and I remember hearing it multiple times that day.)

And of course the White House and the US Capitol were being evacuated. We had pictures of this, staff in business attire walking, and then all of a sudden running, out of the building. We now know of course that one of those two buildings is standing today because of the heroism of those aboard Flight 93, which was soon to crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Then everyone in our room watched as the South Tower, the second building struck, answered my initial question and began to collapse. Even though I had wondered how long those buildings could stand after the impact of two fully fueled airliners, seeing that first tower fall was still shocking. I remember then for the first time people around us making noise, some letting out shocked screams, other sobbing, a few cursing. It wasn’t long before the second tower fell, and I went back to my desk for lack of anything better to do, wondering how many people I had just watched die. 10,000? 50,000?

I remember spending the rest of the morning in a bit of a daze, staring out the window towards St. Pete/Clearwater airport, watching a few planes landing and feeling frankly terrified every time one came into view. We were 6 floors up and even though in retrospect it seems a bit silly, at that time it seemed entirely possible that one of those planes might find us an inviting target. None did, and it wasn’t long before there were no more planes to land, except for the military jet (perhaps it was a coast guard plane) that we saw take off and streak away.

I remember getting an e-mail from one of my managers, expecting him to tell us to go home, but instead reading that we should treat the day as a “low call volume day” and “work on some back burner” projects. I’m not somebody who is easily angered, but reading that I was completely pissed off and ready to either quit on the spot or march into his office and punch him in the face. I worked for a financial services firm and we weren’t sure at that point when the Stock Exchange would reopen or if any of our industry in New York was even left.

I remember spending the rest of the day thinking about the people involved. The passengers on the planes used as missiles, those folks trapped in the towers, many of whom chose to jump rather than face the jet-fueled inferno a moment longer, the firemen and police who charged up the stairs of a burning building to try to save others, and, after a while, the hijackers themselves. At first all I felt was hatred for them for what they had done, which was natural of course. But over time I’ve come to pity them, these men who died and killed for a lie, that they would find their reward in paradise.

In the days and weeks that passed, I remember watching the news and reading accounts of what happened obsessively. It still all felt oddly distanced and detached even though I knew it was real and had happened. I guess you would say that I was in a state of shock for some time. My memories of those times are scattered, but one of the most vivid is George Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium for the first game of the World Series (and throwing a strike while wearing a bullet proof vest – that WAS impressive, whatever you think of the man).

There are other moments as well, David Letterman’s first monologue after coming back on the air, U2 playing the Super Bowl halftime show as the names of the fallen scrolled passed on a large screen behind them. But I remember most clearly several months later when I heard Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising, and for the first time, while listening to the title track, I had tears streaming down my face. The opening of the song follows a firefighter who is starting a doomed climb up the stairs of one of the towers with a “sixty pound stone” on his back and a “half mile of line” over his shoulder. The imagery is so powerful that to this day I can’t listen to it without the hair on my arms standing up.

I’ve never had a chance to meet Bruce Springsteen, but if I ever do the only thing I’ll say to him is “thank you.” The Rising provided me with something to latch onto, a way to let go of the senseless violence that we’d witnessed that day, and a needed emotional release. I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment either.

I remember finally visiting New York several times for work in 2008, and getting a chance to see Ground Zero. By that time it was little more than a massive construction site, with viewing areas for visitors and a few makeshift memorials surrounding it.

The WTC site in 2008.
A collage that decorated the WTC subway station.

One part of the WTC site that stuck with me was the so-called Survivors’ Staircase. It was the remaining above ground element to survive the Trade Center collapse, and hundreds of people used it to escape the buildings that day.

The Survivors’ Staircase

To this day I still find myself obsessing over the events of September 11 on occasion. Snippets of those events still find their way into my dreams sometimes. I can only imagine how much more those people who lost friends and loved ones or who were directly involved in the events that day have those dreams. Today, as the 10th anniversary of the attacks is upon us I find myself wondering when and how to explain those events to my children. What will I say to make something that in retrospect seems impossible seem real? How do you explain to a 7- and 8-year-old the horrors people will inflict upon one another in the name of religion? And how did those families that lost a parent explain what happened to their children? Those are the things I’m thinking about today. Tomorrow, I will just remember, again.

What do you remember?

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