Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Solid Gold" & Platinum: 5 Reasons Why '80s Music Television Was So Much Better Than It Is Now

And then there was the Psychic Friends Network. But first came Solid Gold, the TV gig that made Dionne Warwick an '80s icon resurrected before she morphed into a '90s punchline. The closest thing the U.S. ever had to the UK's Tops of the Pops, Solid Gold might be best remembered by some as the show hosted by faded pop stars looking to relight their fire: Warwick, Marilyn McCoo, Andy Gibb, Rex Smith and Rick Dees, a one-hit-wonder DJ-turned-television personality who topped Billboard's Hot 100 in 1976 with "Disco Duck."

For me, though, Solid Gold was a Saturday mainstay, required viewing at 1pm, right after Casey Kasem's America's Top 10. If it hasn't aged as gracefully as some of the music television that preceded it in the '70s -- American Bandstand, Soul Train, The Midnight Special -- it's probably because of the Solid Gold Dancers, who complemented the countdown of the week's Top 10 hits (from a chart that must have been compiled by the show's producers since it didn't bear any resemblance to Billboard's hit list) with choreographed routines that reeked of '80s cheese. But that was just another reason to love the show!

My prayers that the series would one day get the DVD treatment thus far remain unanswered, but thanks to YouTube, I can now relive the Saturday afternoons of my youth, right here on my computer screen.

5 Great Solid Gold Moments

Marilyn McCoo "I've Never Been to Me" (1982) You can't get more '80s than "I've Never Been to Me," and McCoo took it even further down the path of unbridled campiness. (Her Joan Collins-in-Monte Carlo hand movements at 1:48 might very well be the single most indelible image from the entire Solid Gold series for me.) Although I hated what McCoo did to the song at the time, the mere mental recollection of her awkwardly gliding across the stage while trying to make Charlene's 1982 No. 3 hit her own has brought much laughter to my life in the 30 years since.

Anne Murray and Dionne Warwick "You Won't See Me" (1986) It didn't seem as random as it probably should have to me when Murray showed up to duet with return host Warwick, who had left in 1982 after one season, for a cover or Murray's Beatles cover that John Lennon once deemed his favorite remake of a Beatles song. For years, I considered Dionne Warwick to be the black Anne Murray, so seeing them onstage together was like watching the perfect marriage of great interpretative stylists.

Three Dog Night "Liar" (1984) Only after I found a YouTube clip of one of my Top 7 favorite '70s bands (right up there with Chicago, ELO, ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, Bee Gees and Queen) on Solid Gold did I remember that the show used to occasionally showcase oldies but goodies sung by acts other than the hosts. Which reminds me, how about a little love from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Three Dog Night? Sure the three lead vocalists didn't write their hits, but few acts of the time had so many that still hold up so well today: "One," "Eli's Coming," "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)," "Joy to the World," and seven other Top 10 singles, including the one they performed on Solid Gold 13 years after it hit No. 7 on the Hot 100.

Adam Ant "Goody Two Shoes" (1981) Who said Solid Gold wasn't cutting edge? The show invited Adam and the Ants to perform their No. 1 UK hit "Stand and Deliver," more than a year before Adam Ant finally enjoyed his belated U.S. breakthrough with "Goody Two Shoes," his "solo" debut. Lip syncing along to his biggest hit while the Solid Gold Dancers sparkled alongside him, putting on their best Jazzercise-like moves is hardly rock & roll, but I like it.

Dionne Warwick and Friends "I Say a Little Prayer" Who sang it best? Warwick, who took the Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition to No. 4 in 1967, or Aretha Franklin, who carried it to No. 10 the following year. Who cares? They sounded so perfect killing it together in 1981. (Fun fact: Warwick had sung it with Glen Campbell as a stunning mash up with his "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" on the show's 1979 pilot, and she'd revisit it once more, with Boy George, during her '85-'86 hosting stint.) I love how Franklin's presence, in particular, inspired Warwick, who'd offered a stunning live rendition of Franklin's "Daydreaming" on The Flip Wilson Show nine years earlier, to bare her soulfulness in a way she rarely did singing on her own.

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